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By Optometry Australia

As shared last week, based on discussions with the Australian Department of Health, we are advising members that it is currently appropriate to provide face-to-face services for care that cannot be delayed without risk to the patient’s health or well-being, to support management of chronic conditions, and in cases where the patient’s function may be impacted without optometric care. The Australian Department of Health has suggested that routine care for preventative purposes or to address refractive error where there is not an explicit need should preferably wait until further relaxation of restrictions. Further information is available on our triaging urgent and critical care webpage.

Many patient groups, particularly those at higher risk for morbidity and mortality associated with COVID-19, are not comfortable accepting the risk associated with seeking in-person care. We believe tele-optometry is a key element in ensuring our community can access the eye care they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. If you are providing telehealth services we encourage you to ensure your patients are aware of this.

Further, we believe that given a Medicare rebate is not currently available, it is appropriate to charge a reasonable private fee for this service. Optometry Australia has developed recommended fees for private billing of telehealth services.
We also recommend reviewing the information available on our telehealth page for more information regarding provision of telehealth services.

Telehealth tools*

There are a number of tools available that can assist with delivering telehealth consultations. These include online and ‘print at home’ eye charts to perform remote visual acuity assessments. Careful instruction needs to be given to ensure these are appropriately used by patients to support meaningful and accurate assessments. A distance and near logMAR chart are now available for members to download here, and a free online eyechart is available at www.wolfchart.org.

An online (and printable) Amsler Grid for your patients is available here.

Melbourne Rapid Fields (MRF) provides a tool for undertaking rapid and accurate threshold testing of visual field for patients with eye and neurological conditions, (in either a telehealth context or face-to-face). For details of how the tool works, please see https://visiondata.net.au. Optometry Australia is pleased to have negotiated a 25% discount for the next 12 months for members wishing to use the MRF online visual field tool (simply contact the vendor and supply them with your name and member number).

Optimed is also providing its CAPTIV8 Share software at no charge for the next three months which will allow you to share animations about your patients’ eye conditions to assist with remotely explaining the problems they may encounter.

e-Prescribing

The Australian Department of Health has recently advised that electronic prescribing is being fast-tracked as part of the National Health Plan for COVID-19. Temporary arrangements are in place to enable patients to receive medicines via telehealth services. Essentially, as a prescriber, you will still create a paper prescription which will need to be signed as normal, or using a valid digital signature. You will then need to create a clear copy of the entire prescription (a digital image such as a photo or PDF including the barcode where applicable) and send this via email, text message or fax to the patient’s pharmacy of choice. You will be required to retain the paper prescription for a period of two years for audit and compliance purposes. Visit the Australian Department of Health website for further information.

Telehealth survey

Deakin University School of Medicine (Optometry) is commencing a research study on telehealth for eye care and the researchers are seeking your assistance with data collection. The study aims to understand optometrist knowledge, experience and intentions toward the uptake and future practice of teleophthalmology as a viable adjunct to in-person consultations.

The survey takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. Participation is voluntary and your responses are anonymous and will remain strictly confidential.
Complete the questionnaire here.

The study has received Deakin University ethics approval (reference number: HEAG-H 29_2020). You may find more detail around what participation will involve, how your privacy and confidentiality is protected and how your data is stored here. by clicking here.

* Please note Optometry Australia has no financial interest in any of the listed tools and is not endorsing or being paid to promote these products.  These tools are being listed here purely as information to assist members provide telehealth and remote services.

Filed in category: Advocacy & government, Coronavirus, General news, Guidelines & practice notes, Member resources, National & State initiatives, Patient care & management, Scope of practice, Sector news
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