Tele-ophthalmology-based vision centers (VC) reduce barriers to care by increasing accessibility and affordability of treatment for patients with corneal disorders, according to research published in Cornea

Researchers retrospectively reviewed data of 10,850 patients who visited a VC in India. They noted the number of outpatient visits, the number of patients with corneal disorders, how many individuals were referred to base hospitals (BH), and the costs of treatment for patients who visited the VC in 2019. 

The team found that 1131 patients (10%) presenting to the clinic were diagnosed with a corneal disorder. Among these individuals, 950 (84%) were treated at the VC itself and did not require referral to a BH. A total of 836 (74%) patients with corneal disorders presented with a painful acute corneal disorder. The most common painful acute corneal disorders included corneal foreign body (n=376, 33%), epithelial abrasions (n=205, 18%), and infectious keratitis (n=124, 11%). 


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Investigators reported the VC’s cost effectiveness. They determined that a patient can save a minimum of INR 1200 (USD 16) by attending the VC instead of a BH. Factoring in the 950 patients treated at the VC for corneal disorders, the team estimated savings of INR 114,0000 (USD 15,200) for the community in 2019. A similar calculation extrapolated that in a 10-year period, the VC could save approximately INR 705,8400 (USD 94,112) strictly by caring for individuals with corneal disorders, according to the report.  

“The treatment of the corneal conditions at the VC has multiple benefits,” according to the researchers. “More than two thirds of these patients were managed at the VC itself, without the need for going to the BH for even a single visit. This implies a significant savings regarding costs and time associated with travel. More importantly, the appropriate treatment is instituted without any delay, resulting in a quicker healing time.”

Study limitations include the exclusive analysis of patients with corneal disorders and difficulty with accurately estimating costs.  

Reference

Komal S, Radhakrishnan N, Vardhan SA, Prajna NV. Effectiveness of a tele-ophthalmology vision center in treating corneal disorders and its associated economic benefits. Cornea. 2022;41(6):688-691. doi:10.1097/ICO.0000000000002784