Ophthalmic image acquired by ophthalmologists and by allied health personnel as part of a telemedicine strategy: a comparative study of image quality

Eye (Lond). 2021 May;35(5):1398-1404. doi: 10.1038/s41433-020-1035-5. Epub 2020 Jun 18.


Objectives: This study evaluates the quality of ophthalmic images acquired by a nurse technician trained in teleophthalmology as compared with images acquired by an ophthalmologist, in order to provide a better understanding of the workforce necessary to operate remote care programs.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was performed on 2044 images obtained from 118 participants of the TeleOftalmo project, in Brazil. Fundus and slit-lamp photography were performed on site by an ophthalmologist and by a nurse technician under the supervision of a remote ophthalmologist. Image quality was then evaluated by masked ophthalmologists. Proportion of suitable images in each group was compared.

Results: The proportion of concordant classification regarding quality was 94.8%, with a corrected kappa agreement of 0.94. When analyzing each type of photo separately, there was no significant difference in the proportion of suitable images between on-site ophthalmologist and nurse technician with remote ophthalmologist assistance for the following: slit-lamp views of the anterior segment and anterior chamber periphery, and fundus photographs centered on the macula and on the optic disc (P = 0.825, P = 0.997, P = 0.194, and P = 0.449, respectively). For slit-lamp views of the lens, the proportion of suitable images was higher among those obtained by an ophthalmologist (99.6%) than by a technician (93.8%, P < 0.01).

Conclusions: Ophthalmic photographs acquired by a trained technician consistently achieved >90% adequacy for remote reading. Compared with ophthalmologist-acquired photos, the proportion of images deemed suitable achieved a high overall agreement. These findings provide favorable evidence of the adequacy of teleophthalmological imaging by nurse technicians.

MeSH terms

  • Allied Health Personnel
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Ophthalmologists*
  • Ophthalmology*
  • Photography
  • Telemedicine*