What to Expect When You Return to your Ophthalmologist’s Office
We can’t tell you when it will be safe to go back to the hair salon, when the kids will return to school or when you can hug your grandparents again. But we can say that your next trip to the ophthalmologist will be different. That’s because ophthalmologists are devising new office procedures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
As California "reopens," the California Academy of Eye Physicians and Surgeons in partnership with our national counterpart the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) want to share how ophthalmologists are working to protect their patients and staff.
In March, CAEPS and the AAO urged ophthalmologists to immediately stop routine surgical and in-office visits to preserve protective equipment such as masks and to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus. Although both groups made recommendations to curtail routine care — in turn based on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and public health officials — the decisions to reopen more normal practice are being handled locally and regionally.
Ophthalmologists are ready with new procedures. Here is what you should expect to see:
- The clinic may ask you to wait outside or in your car instead of in the normal waiting room. This is to protect you, the other patients and the office staff from possible virus exposure in crowded waiting areas and until you can be screened.
- The clinic is likely restricting the number of people who enter. If you do not need someone to be there with you, do not bring anyone to your appointment.
- Expect to see hand sanitizer when you enter the building and in the waiting room and exam rooms.
- Expect to be asked to wear a mask. Here’s a video on how to properly put on and take off your mask. You won’t be alone. The staff as well as all visitors should wear a mask.
- Waiting room chairs -- when used -- will be spaced out to accommodate social distancing. The office may also have made arrangements or adjustments for additional waiting areas to prevent crowding.
- You will not see magazines, clip boards, or other high-touch materials that could help spread the virus.
- Cleaning will occur more frequently throughout the clinic.
- As usual, exam rooms and equipment will be thoroughly cleaned before every patient.
- Expect to be asked a series of questions to determine your risk profile.
- Expect everyone to have their temperature taken, whether they are at high risk of being infected or not.
- Your eye doctor may use a special plastic breath shield on the slit lamp machine they use to look into your eyes. They may also wear a plastic shield over their eyes in addition to a mask.
- Your doctor may ask you to wait to speak until after your eye exam is complete. He or she can then talk with you and answer questions when they can be a safe distance from you.
As you can imagine, there may be a backlog of patients who postponed care, so you may have to wait for an appointment. Also, the additional precautions required in operating rooms will likely result in fewer surgeries performed each day.
"Ophthalmologists are doing everything possible to ensure patients are comfortable with the updated processes and techniques. We recognize these are challenging times, but those challenges must be balanced with your needs as a patient," said Amin Ashrafzadeh, MD, CAEPS President and a Cornea and Refractive Surgery specialist practicing in Modesto.
“Our primary responsibility as physicians is to our patients’ safety and health,” said Dianna Seldomridge, MD, clinical spokesperson for the AAO. “It’s the core of the medical profession. If you have questions or concerns about coming into the office, give your ophthalmologist's office a call. As always whatever is done will be guided by what’s best for you.”