An evaluation of the safety and effectiveness of telephone triage in prioritising patient visits to an ophthalmic emergency department - the impact of COVID-19

Ir J Med Sci. 2021 Oct 19;1-6. doi: 10.1007/s11845-021-02806-w. Online ahead of print.


Background: During the COVID-19 crisis, a new nurse and doctor-led telephone triage model of care was evaluated as a method of prioritising essential visits to the ophthalmic accident and emergency department in the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital. This new method of service is known as "Telehealth" or "E-Health".

Aims: To assess the safety and efficacy of a Telehealth model of care ultilised during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methods: A prospective study was undertaken in the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital where the telephone triage records were examined over a 28-day period during the COVID-19 pandemic from 19 March 2020 to 16 April 2020 inclusive.

Results: During this period, 1120 telephone calls were received by the call centre. A total of 739 patients attended the emergency department over the 28-day period compared to 2247 during the same period in 2019.

Conclusion: To reduce risk of transmission, the COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated novel ways of interacting with patients and sharing healthcare information. Our new mode of service provision in the RVEEH portrays the effectiveness of Telehealth. This study gives us further scope to improve this model of care into the future.

Keywords: Casualty; Emergency; Ophthalmology; Telehealth; Telemedicine.