Palo Alto, CA — Interrupted patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic has been seen across the medical field with dire consequences. In ophthalmology, interrupted care can result in vision loss.
A team of ophthalmologists and clinical research coordinators at Stanford University created a telegenetics platform for continuity of care during COVID-19 for patients with inherited retinal diseases, and at the same time they ensured the progression of research projects.
Vinit Mahajan M.D., Ph.D., professor of ophthalmology, said, “We were able to work around reduced in-person staffing due to COVID by creating telehealth management protocols for complete or hybrid virtual visits. Reviewing diagnostic test results remotely, scheduling in‐person or virtual video visits with a retina specialist, and using virtual genetic testing saliva kits kept patients and staff safe.”
The new telegenetics platform was created to be secure and accessible to all patients, especially those with vision loss. That meant, if needed, either a clinical research coordinator or a family member could help walk patients through the process at home.
Aarushi Kumar, a Mahajan Lab clinical research coordinator said, “We also had to ensure that the new platform was reliable and flexible enough to meet our patients' needs as well as meet regulatory requirements.”
In the new platform, Aarushi worked with translational research coordinator Teja Chemudupati to create a secure online method for patients to register for genetic testing, sign consents, and meet with counselors and Dr. Mahajan virtually.
The software development was supported by philanthropic gifts to Dr. Mahajan and the genetic testing was supported by the Foundation Fighting Blindness.
Ophthalmology resident Dr. Ahmad Al‐Moujahed reviewed the data and found care was delivered to over 80 patients carrying a variety of gene mutations. The number of patients taking advantage of this service has increased since the original report, since travel remains limited.
Telegenetics was created out of necessity, but it will have lasting implications.
Aarushi said, “Telegenetics is a useful tool that could become standard practice. Patients can participate from the comfort of their own homes and get access to care if they live far away or are unable to travel. An added benefit is that it frees up clinic and reduces wait time.”
“Telegenetics for inherited retinal diseases in the COVID‐19 environment,” was recently published in International Journal of Retina and Vitreous. Authors on the manuscript include Ahmad Al‐Moujahed, Aarushi Kumar, Teja Chemudupati, Stephen H. Tsang and Vinit B. Mahajan.