Help is Just a Phone Call Away….
One thing this pandemic has shown us is that we can implement innovative ways to serve our clients much more quickly than we thought. This is certainly the case with our Low Vision Clinic’s new telemedicine program.
One of our long-range goals for the clinic was to establish a telemedicine program. We thought we could make this happen over the next three to four years. But then the pandemic hit and suddenly the timeline was moved up. We knew that our patients needed to be seen by our doctors and occupational therapist in a timely manner.
In late summer 2020, we piloted our telemedicine program, and as the saying goes, the rest is history! It took little time for our doctors to see the positive impact of telemedicine. Usually our low vision evaluations are 1.5 to 2 hours long. On top of that, many patients travel quite a few miles to get to our clinic, so it makes for a pretty long visit.
Our telemedicine program uses a phone-based system compatible with any smart phone – so help is really just a phone call away. The patient stays in their own home to go over their history, discuss their eye condition and its impact on their daily activities as well as their goals. Within a few days of the phone appointment, the patient comes to our clinic for the low vision evaluation and to try out assistive devices. The total in-person visit takes only 45 minutes to an hour.
Our next step is to create telemedicine kits that will be dropped off at a patient’s home prior to their appointment. Each kit will contain testing items, magnification devices and other products. After the visit, Society for the Blind staff will pick up the kits, which will be cleaned and sanitized for re-use. We are most grateful to Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society Alliance and the Joyce and Jim Teel Family Foundation for their grants in support of our telemedicine program. With more than 300 referrals coming into our Low Vision Clinic in just the past two months, this program enables our doctors and occupational therapist to see more patients per day. We anticipate serving more than 100 patients via telemedicine in the next year.
The pandemic certainly threw us all for a loop, yet challenging times also propel us to take bold steps such as launching our telemedicine program on a shorter timeline than we had anticipated. We are looking forward to gradually reopening our training center for in-person classes in the coming months. Thank you for your continued support of Society for the Blind. Because of you, we are able to keep our blindness skills programs, Low Vision Clinic and support groups operating at full capacity.