Ocular telehealth screenings in an urban community

Telemed J E Health. 2012 Mar;18(2):95-100. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2011.0067. Epub 2012 Jan 27.


The current U.S. economic recession has resulted in a loss of income, housing, and healthcare coverage. Our major goal in this socioeconomic setting was to provide ophthalmic remote health screenings for urban soup kitchen and homeless populations in order to identify and refer undetected vision-threatening disease (VTD). We assessed visual acuity, blood pressure, pulse/oxygen saturation, body mass index, and intraocular pressure for 341 participants at soup kitchens as part of the homeless outreach program in Newark, NJ. History of diabetes, hypertension, and smoking, last ocular examination, and ocular history were noted. Imaging was performed with an 8.2 megapixel non-mydriatic retinal camera with high-speed Internet ready for off-site second opinion image evaluation. Positive VTD findings were identified in 105 participants (31%) (mean age, 53.6 years), of whom 78% were African American, 73% males, and 62% smokers. We detected glaucoma in 34 participants (32%), significant cataract in 22 (21%), diabetic retinopathy in 5 (5%), optic atrophy in 1 (1%), age-related macular degeneration in 1 (1%), and other retinal findings in 43 (41%). The incidence of VTDs was higher among this cohort than among study groups in previous screenings (31% vs. 12%). This finding shows an increase in ocular morbidity in a younger, at-risk population with elevated rates of hypertension, diabetes, and smoking. Functional visual impairment was 2.5 times higher than the national average (16% vs. 6.4%). Comprehensive, community-based screenings can provide more sensitive detection of VTDs in high-risk groups with low access to ophthalmic care and can be an integral part of recession solutions for improving healthcare.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Eye Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Screening / economics
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Middle Aged
  • Ophthalmology / economics
  • Ophthalmology / methods*
  • Poverty
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Telemedicine / economics
  • Telemedicine / methods*
  • United States
  • Urban Population / statistics & numerical data*
  • Young Adult