We are now back in our clinics seeing routine patients after almost 2 months of hiatus due to COVID-19. The clinic is slow due to the lower demand for our elective surgical procedures, primarily cataract and refractive surgery. This certainly helps with the required 6 feet of distancing between people, but it sure makes the place look empty. Like all ophthalmologists around the world, our practice is struggling and will need to permanently change in order to adapt to these new conditions. This is a stressful time and our practices are enduring significant hardship.
For those who perform purely elective surgeries such as cataract, refractive, and cosmetic, the economic hit may be particularly hard compared to subspecialties where care is more urgent such as retina and glaucoma. Older cataract patients may elect to defer surgery out of fear of becoming sick. Refractive and cosmetic patients who pay out of pocket for these services are often younger and healthier, but they may have more issues with personal finance due to loss of employment.
The COVID-19 virus will not likely simply disappear and we will have to deal with it and use strict precautions for months or even years to come. This means a lower volume of patients for in-person visits, longer time between patients to allow for proper disinfection of exam rooms and equipment, and the use of personal protective gear for both medical personnel and patients. In our surgery centers, similar restrictions will limit the number of surgeries we can do per day. The use of telemedicine is increasing but is still limited when it comes to intra-ocular conditions.
We are doing what our colleagues are doing: being cautious and safe, putting patient interests first, and still giving the best care that we know how. We are also seeing the positives of spending more time with family, having a slower pace, and appreciating the beauty of life. Now is the time for personal and professional introspection, planning, and growth. There will always be a need for ophthalmology, and we will be ready to fill it.
Click below to learn what you can do during this time to become a better ophthalmologist: