Introduction to Tele-Ophthalmology


Teleophthalmology is a branch of telemedicine that delivers eye care through digital medical equipment and telecommunications technology. Today, applications of teleophthalmology encompass access to eye specialists for patients in remote areas, ophthalmic disease screening, diagnosis and monitoring; as well as distant learning.

Teleophthalmology enables health professionals to take ocular images and attend to patients who have limited access to ocular health care. These images allow the ophthalmologist or optometrist, health care professionals and researchers to carry out the aforementioned applications. The required equipment includes a camera that can take ocular images and a computer terminal with network capabilities, which can transfer the images.

Implementation

Although ocular photography has been present since the early 1980s, the transfer of digital images from one location to another for assessment is a relatively recent phenomenon. The rise of digital imaging in the early 1990s allowed ophthalmologists and optometrists to capture images and store them on computers for future assessment. The advent of the Internet allowed for the digital transfer of these ocular images from one location to another.

Current teleophthalmological solutions are generally focused on a particular eye problem, such as diabetic retinopathy,[2] retinopathy of prematurity,[3] macular degeneration, strabismus[4] and adnexal eye diseases.[5] Less common conditions that can be revealed using retinal images are arterial and vein occlusions, chorioretinitis, congenital anomalies, and tapetoretinal abitrophy. Several population-based studies have used retinal imaging to relate ophthalmic abnormalities to general conditions, including hypertension, renal dysfunction, cardiovascular mortality, subclinical and clinical stroke, and cognitive impairment.

Process

Fundus photography is performed by a fundus camera, which basically consists of a specialized low power microscope with an attached camera. Teleophthalmology services can be provided primarily in two ways synchronously or asynchronously:

Advantages