A cross-sectional study of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on an ophthalmology consult service in four Michigan community hospitals.

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Indian journal of ophthalmology


PURPOSE: During the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, private practice, inpatient consult services, and academic residency programs in ophthalmology saw a decrease in patient encounters. This study elucidates how community hospital ophthalmology consult (OC) services were affected during the pandemic. We aim to determine whether there was a change in resident OC volume in a community-based ophthalmology program consult service during the COVID-19 pandemic. Secondary objectives included analyzing the change in the types of diagnoses and the number of patients seen for diabetic retinopathy over the same time.

METHODS: A retrospective cross-sectional study was conducted reviewing the electronic health record (EHR) charts from OCs for the period 2017-2021. Records were categorized by referral source and the nature of OCs (trauma, acute, or chronic); OCs were further grouped by year and weak of referral. An intermonth analysis of weekly OC counts in each category was performed for the average number of consults in February-April 2017-2019 and for February-April 2020. A one-tailed t-test was performed. All t-tests assumed equal variances.

RESULTS: Weekly OCs in 2020 revealed no statistically significant differences in overall cases or in acute or chronic cases when the volume before the COVID-19 pandemic was compared to the volume after the onset of the pandemic. However, a statistically significant increase in the average weekly trauma cases was noted when 2020 (an average of 2.7 cases per week) was compared to the weekly average for the same weeks of years 2017- 2019 (0.4; P = 0.016). This statistically significant increase in trauma in 2020 disappeared when comparing weeks 11-17 in 2020 (2.2 cases per week) and the average of 2017-2019 (1.1).

CONCLUSION: This report outlines no significant change in OCs before and after the onset of the pandemic compared to three previous years. There was, however, an increase in trauma consults during the pandemic and an increase in the number (though not the proportion) of diabetic retinopathy (DR+) patients seen by residents. This report uniquely describes no significant changes in the resident volume of patients seen during the COVID-19 global pandemic.





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