Telehealth Data Reveals Follow-Up Rates, Outcomes Similar to In-Person

Stressed Asian Senior woman talking and consulting with Female Doctor about her symptoms from Coronavirus via internet and wireless technology. Rear view of old female making video call from home with physician via digital tablet during quarantine.
The data suggests that teleophthalmology may be useful going forward due to its success during the pandemic.

This article is part of Ophthalmology Advisor’s conference coverage from the 2021 meeting of The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO), held virtually from May 1 to 7, 2021. The team at Ophthalmology Advisor will be reporting on a variety of the research presented by the eye and vision experts at ARVO. Check back for more from the ARVO 2021 Meeting.


Teleophthalmology may be a viable alternative for patient care, suggested by the similar numbers of follow-up, referral and outpatient surgery outcomes across virtual and in-person visits, according to findings presented at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) 2021 Annual Meeting, held virtually May 1 to May 7.

Researchers conducted a retrospective, observational study at the Cole Eye Institute in Cleveland to characterize the use of virtual visits and compare their outcomes to in-person visits during the pandemic. The study compared 2266 virtual and 2590 in-person visits.

A planned follow-up resulted from 72.3% of virtual visits, compared with 70.3% following an in-person visit (P <.121). The amount of virtual patients who were discharged (15.9%) was slightly higher compared to in-person patients (10.8%, P <.001), and there was a similar number of virtual patients and in-person patients who were referred to a primary care doctor or different ophthalmology subspecialty (P =.081). 

Regarding scheduled procedures, there was a similar number of virtual and in-person patients who had planned an outpatient surgery (6.0% vs 4.8%, respectively, P =.08), but the number of scheduled clinic procedures was slightly higher in in-person patients than in virtual patients (7.2% vs 0.2%, P <.001). Finally, cancellations (4.6% virtual, 3.5% in-person, P =.11), and no-shows (2.8% virtual, 2.1% in-person, P =.2) were similar between the groups.

The researchers conclude that, although most data was similar between the virtual and in-person groups during the pandemic, a higher risk of care discontinuation in virtual settings is implied. This pattern is shown by findings that virtual follow-ups occurred more often after virtual visits than after in-person visits, and discharges and unscheduled follow-up visits were more prevalent in the virtual setting.

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Valentim C, Muste J, Iyer A, et al. Characterization and outcomes of virtual visit during the COVID-19 pandemic. Poster presented at: Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO); May 1-7, 2021; virtual. Abstract: 3537131