Being at the front-line of customer service, we changed our administration processes to meet the new healthcare regulations. Our reception desk has been fitted with a Plexiglass protection screen and we aim to collect all our fees via contactless card transactions. The patient group numbers have been reduced from the usual 20 down to 8 per group to allow for social distancing rules within our clinic space. We also conduct patient/visitor screening through questionnaire and non-invasive temperature checks at the entrance to our clinic. Positive patient feedback has been reassuring.
As orthoptists, we are heavily involved as the first clinical point of contact for patients receiving intravitreal injections. This has become particularly important during COVID-19. Initially, when the lockdown started, understandably COVID-19 related fear and anxiety led to a significant number of patient cancellations. We started digitally communicating with our patients more than ever: contacting patients and their families to address any concerns, provide reassurance and to remind them of the importance of intravitreal injections. In addition, we have distributed information leaflets regarding the importance of continuing treatment as well as the actions our clinic has taken to minimize risk and protect our patients. Sometimes, it was just about reassurance that we are still here and prepared to continue to care for them.
Intravitreal injections have caused a huge revolution in the treatment of a variety of ocular conditions, including age-related macular degeneration, diabetic macular edema, proliferative diabetic retinopathy, retinal vein occlusion, pathological myopia, uveitis, and many more. It is crucial that patients continue their intravitreal therapy injections during this time as they may suffer reduced vision or blindness resulting from no treatment. Due to the relatively short half-life of intravitreally injected drugs, most patients are treated with a series of injections at varying time intervals based on their visual condition to obtain and maintain the desired therapeutic effects. We also do not know how long the COVID-19 situation will continue and if patients stop their injections then it may be months before they recommence treatment and in this time, they may suffer irreversible scarring and loss of vision.
We find that the patients have now settled into a new established routine. We have received very positive feedback from them. They are grateful that they can continue receiving the treatment and that the process is well-organised. The whole experience made us realise the importance of what we do as a team. Even though we must maintain social distancing rules, as a community of SSI staff and patients we feel closer than ever before.