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Winter 2023

Research Highlight: Efficacy and Acceptance of Tele-optometry


Nora Matland

Key takeaways from a 2019 study on the satisfaction of tele-optometric care. This research was conducted as part of a preliminary study focusing on tele-optometry by Christina Morettin, OD; Harneet Randhawa, OD ’16; Jaymeni Patel, OD ’16; Heather McLeod, OD ’06; Elizabeth Wyles, OD; Navjit Sanghera, OD; Valerie Kattouf, OD ’95; Leonard Messner, OD; Kimberly Fazio, OD ’21 and Yi Pang, OD, PhD.

During the pandemic, everyone had to come up with new ways to interact, and healthcare had an even more urgent need to adapt. Health providers had to change how we interact with technology and how we access tele-medical platforms. That experience shifted the paradigm for health care. Moving forward, we know that technology will play a pivotal role in reshaping healthcare. Tele-optometry improves accessibility to eyecare services and in this context, holds immense potential in addressing healthcare disparities. 


In 2019, we conducted a preliminary study on the efficacy and acceptance of tele-optometry, which resulted in four published papers. Two papers explored the accuracy of tele-optometry, including its refractive capabilities as well as its performance in binocular vision and accommodative testing. The third evaluated the validity of the ocular health testing. The last paper focused on comparing the tele-optometric examination experience with a traditional, in-person comprehensive eye examination. 

Our investigation included 30 healthy optometry students. Participants underwent both a tele-optometric and a traditional in-person eye examination, followed by satisfaction surveys. Surveys were also given at the end of the study, which allowed participants to pinpoint specific areas of dissatisfaction between the two exams.

After each exam, we asked participants if we had addressed their concerns, if they were satisfied with their care, and then to rate the quality of each examination. We found no statistically significant difference between the two examinations. However, participants expressed concerns about the absence of an optometrist in the room during the telehealth examination and the potential implications for the doctor-patient relationship. Most participants preferred to return for in-person examinations.

Optometry students, who were the subjects of our exams, are future optometrists and may have innate biases towards an in-person examination versus a tele-optometric examination. The public may have a different understanding and attitude towards tele-optometry, and we recommend further studies with larger and more diverse populations to obtain a better understanding of patient satisfaction with tele-optometry.

Initial research showed that telehealth can play an essential role in improving access to care. 1- Previous studies have shown that telehealth can lessen factors that lead to non-compliance with follow-up visits. 2- Tele-optometry may also be the only viable option, especially in rural areas where access to quality medical services is limited. The opportunity to see patients remotely in rural areas and the decrease in travel time, costs, and unnecessary referrals has made telehealth invaluable in these circumstances.

Another important factor was health and safety. Although this research was conducted in 2019, we saw it actively implemented only a few months later. Telehealth can protect providers and patients by stopping the spread of diseases. Especially in community outbreaks, telehealth decreases face-to-face time which in turn decreases exposure. During the pandemic, this also helped to minimize gaps in patient care.

This study was completed in 2019, and when we began our research, we weren’t anticipating how soon it would be necessary. However, we recognized that AI and technology were expanding. We need to keep up with these advances. The optimal care of patients is always at the center of what we do — even when that may take us out of our comfort zone.


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