By Alexandra Brodin
Scheie Vision Annual Report 2020
Beginning in March, all non-urgent appointments at the Scheie Eye Institute were cancelled in order to keep patients, staff, and physicians safe in the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. Non-urgent appointments included elective services, cataract surgeries, non-urgent follow-up appointments, routine screenings, and appointments for glasses or contact lenses. Urgent cases, which were carefully defined by the Department for each ophthalmic subspecialty, have proceeded throughout the pandemic.
In May, as researchers began to gain a deeper understanding of the novel coronavirus and adequate PPE was obtained, the Department created a system for phasing back non-urgent appointments. With thousands of appointments in the patient backlog, ophthalmology technicians and patient service representatives worked to ensure each patient was re-scheduled with the appropriate physician at the right time.
As of October 2020, the Department safely reached pre-COVID patient volumes. Below, we outline what changes you can expect at your next appointment at the Scheie Eye Institute.
When You Arrive
When you arrive for an in-person appointment, you may notice the lobby looks very different. Plexiglass barriers have been placed at the front desk and throughout waiting areas to limit exposure to potentially infectious droplets. Seating is also arranged to ensure social distancing, and overflow areas have been established for each of the waiting areas in case they become too full. Visits to our optical shop are scheduled by appointment only.
Upon entering the building, all patients are required to have their temperature taken by a staff member (with a threshold of 99.0). Patients are also required to wear a mask or facial covering throughout their time in the building, and the mask must cover the nose, mouth, and chin. Signs have been placed in exam rooms and waiting areas to demonstrate the proper way to wear a mask or facial covering, and any patient without a mask will be provided with one. All surfaces in the exam room are cleaned in between patients, and waiting areas are cleaned in accordance with University of Pennsylvania Health System (UPHS) and CDC guidelines.
The Department has also implemented a strict visitor policy. For all appointments and consultations, patients are not allowed to bring anyone with them, unless someone is needed to help with care. If you need someone to accompany you to your appointment, please reach out to your physician for approval to bring a companion who is over 18 years old. If someone else drove you to the appointment, he or she must wait outside of the building for the appointment to be finished (with the exception of approved companions).
The staff and physicians in the Department are so grateful for their patients’ respect of these precautions. The above requirements will help us continue to fight the pandemic.
Telemedicine Enhancement Pathway
Your physician may identify you as a candidate for the Telemedicine Enhancement Pathway (TEP), a new program that allows established patients with long-term conditions (such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or macular degeneration) to come on-site for an imaging/testing appointment. After this initial visit, the patient meets virtually through videoconference or by telephone with his or her physician. During this telemedicine visit, the patient and physician review the results together and discuss a care plan. This discrete two-step pathway reduces exposure to the virus, as well as patient wait times since the patient can return home as soon as the onsite imaging/testing is complete. Patients are advised to contact the TEP Coordinator (215-662-8023) for any help throughout the process.
It is important to note that a TEP imaging/testing appointment is not appropriate for urgent symptoms (including loss of vision, sudden onset of flashes, floaters, extreme eye pain, sudden bleeding from the eye, excessive discharge from the eye, new or severe headaches, extreme light sensitivity, or severe itching). If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, please contact the Scheie Eye Institute Call Center at 215-662-8100.
Although the Scheie Eye Institute has phased back in-person appointments, telemedicine remains an important method of providing care. Telemedicine appointments take place virtually, with patient and provider meeting over videoconference or by telephone. If you are using video as well as audio, he or she may perform an examination of the surface of the eye using the camera on your device, or instruct you in the use of an at-home vision test. Individual situations vary, and you can find more information in another article from this issue, titled “Telemedicine Ramps Up at Scheie During Coronavirus Pandemic.”
It is our mission at Scheie to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of our patients. The precautions described above will remain in place as we continue to navigate the pandemic together.