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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 68  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 725-730

Effect of COVID-19 related lockdown on ophthalmic practice and patient care in India: Results of a survey

1 Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital, Wadala; Advanced Eye Hospital and Institute, A Unit of Agarwal's Eye Hospital; Aayush Eye Clinic, A Unit of Agarwal's Eye Hospital, Chembur, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
2 Foresight International, Hyderabad, Telangana, India
3 Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital, Wadala, Mumbai, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Akshay Gopinathan Nair
Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital, Wadala, Mumbai - 400 031, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ijo.IJO_797_20

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Purpose: In early 2020, the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of the disease COVID-19, caused by a new variant of coronavirus 2019-nCoV as a global pandemic. The government of India ordered a nationwide lockdown for 21 days, limiting movement of people as a preventive measure. This survey was designed and conducted during the lockdown period to assess its effect on ophthalmic practice and patient care in India. Methods: An online survey was sent across to practicing Indian ophthalmologists across through various social media platforms. All valid responses were tabulated and analyzed. Results: A total of 1260 ophthalmologists responded to the survey. Most of the respondents (775/1260; 61.5%) were in private practice and 14.8% (187/1260) were affiliated to ophthalmic institutes. At the time of taking the survey, 72.5% of the respondents (913/1260) were not seeing any patients due to the lockdown. Of those who were still examining patients, 82.9% (287/347) were only seeing emergency cases, based on their own clinical judgement. The proportion of ophthalmologists in ophthalmic institutes, government and municipal hospitals (126/253;49.8%) who were still seeing patients was significantly higher (P < 0.0001) than those in private practice (174/775;22.4%). Apart from emergencies such as trauma, retinal detachment, and endophthalmitis (81.8%), other surgeries that were still being performed included intravitreal injections (9.1%) and cataract surgeries (5.9%). Approximately, 77.5% (976/1260) of the respondents had begun telephonic/e-mail/video consultations or consultations over social media applications since the lockdown began. In addition, 59.1% (745/1260) felt that ophthalmologists were potentially at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 compared to other specialties while examining patients. When asked about the resumption of practice upon easing off of the restrictions, 57.8% (728/1260) of the respondents said they were unsure of when to resume elective surgeries; furthermore, 62.8% (791/1260) were unsure about the preferred screening strategy or precautionary approach prior to resuming surgeries and were awaiting guidelines. Conclusion: Our survey shows that majority of ophthalmologists in India were not seeing patients during the COVID-19 lockdown, with near-total cessation of elective surgeries. Emergency services were still being attended to by 27.5% of ophthalmologists who responded. A large proportions of ophthalmologists had switched over to telephonic advice or other forms of telemedicine to assist patients. Most of the responding ophthalmologists were unclear about when and how to resume surgeries upon easing off of the COVID-19 related restrictions. Regulatory bodies should take note of this and issue appropriate guidelines regarding the same.

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