What Ophthalmologists and Optometrists Should Know about COVID-19 (Coronavirus) for Patient and Staff Safety

by | Tuesday, March 17, 2020 | 0 comment(s)

As a health care practitioner, you understand the importance of ensuring the safety and well-being of your patients.

Amid the daily media headlines and global shutdowns surrounding the spread of COVID-19, it can be difficult to discern fact from fiction and determine the best way to protect your patients and your practice.

However, there are steps you can take to stay informed and minimize risk so you can continue to provide the highest quality of care for your patients and safeguard your staff from potential harm.

Need help communicating with your patients about COVID-19?

Download our Free COVID-19 Patient Education Template, customizable to your practice.

First, what is COVID-19?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases.

This new coronavirus disease has been named COVID-19; the virus that causes it is SARS-CoV-2. First diagnosed in China in December of 2019, COVID-19 was officially declared a pandemic by WHO on March 19, 2020. As of this writing, it has affected more than 1,200 people in the United States.

While the majority of infections are mild and result in recovery, there are certain groups that have a higher risk of infection. These include older adults and those suffering from chronic medical conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

What do ophthalmologists and optometrists need to know?

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) recently issued an alert stating that, “Several reports suggest the virus can cause conjunctivitis and possibly be transmitted by aerosol contact with conjunctiva.”

In addition to following the standard infection control procedures for health care practitioners recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the AAO recommends the following protocols for vision care specialists when scheduling or seeing patients.

  • When phoning about visit reminders, ask to reschedule appointments for patients with nonurgent ophthalmic problems who have respiratory illness, fever or returned from a high-risk area within the past 2 weeks.

  • Patients who come to an appointment should be asked prior to entering the waiting room about respiratory illness and if they or a family member have traveled to a high-risk area in the past 14 days. If they answer yes to either question, they should be sent home and told to speak to their primary care physician.

  • Keep the waiting room as empty as possible, and reduce the visits of the most vulnerable patients.

  • Sick patients who possibly have COVID-19 with an urgent eye condition can be seen, but personal protective equipment should be worn by all who come in contact with the patient. The CDC's recommendations for personal protective equipment include gloves, gowns, respiratory protection and eye protection. Place a facemask on the patient and isolate them in an examination room with the door closed; use airborne infection isolation rooms (AIIR) if available.

  • Rooms and instruments should be thoroughly disinfected afterward based on current CDC recommendations specific to COVID-19. Slit lamps, including controls and accompanying breath shields, should be disinfected after every patient, particularly wherever they put their hands and face.

Also keep in mind that many annual meetings, conferences, and trade shows have been cancelled or postponed.

As organizations attempt to limit travel and large gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many events have been cancelled or postponed.

Vision Expo East, for example, will no longer be held this month but will now be postponed and consolidated with Vision Expo West in Las Vegas, Sept. 23-26.

If you are planning to travel or attend any events in the near future, be sure to check their websites frequently in case there have been changes in scheduling.

Finally, be smart, and use common sense.

You certainly didn’t make it through all those years of schooling on good looks alone. Remember that your patients—and your staff—are counting on you and your years of clinical wisdom and prudent judgment.

Make it a point to stay informed by avoiding questionable news sources and instead frequenting sites such as the WHO and CDC COVID-19 resource pages to stay abreast of changes and updated recommendations. 

Like you, our team will continue to keep tabs on COVID-19.

Here at Veatch Ophthalmic Instruments, we understand your position and the weight it carries, especially in times like this.

We will continue to follow the latest updates about COVID-19 and share any pertinent information with you.

In the meantime, we look forward to serving you and fulfilling all of your ophthalmic equipment and supply needs.


Kyna Veatch

Need help communicating with your patients about COVID-19?

Download our Free COVID-19 Patient Education Template, customizable to your practice.

This entry was posted in no categories.

You must be logged in to post comments.