In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a web-based tele-triage system was created to prioritize in-person clinic visits and ensure safety at the University of Illinois at Chicago Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences during a statewide shelter-in-place order. The aim of this study is to evaluate the impact of the tele-triage system on urgent visit volume and explore the characteristics of acute visit requests at a tertiary referral eye center.
This retrospective study analyzed acute visit requests between April 6, 2020 and June 6, 2020. Descriptive statistics, chi-square tests, ANOVA, and bivariate logistic regression were used to compare variables with a p-value of 0.05.
Three hundred fifty-eight surveys were completed. Mean age was 49.7 ± 18.8 years (range 2-91). The majority of requests were determined as urgent (63.0%) or emergent (0.8%). Forty-nine patients had recent eye trauma (13.7%), and the most common reported symptoms were new onset eye pain (25.7%) and photophobia (22.9%). Most patients were self-referred (63.7%), though provider referral was more common in patients with symptoms of new onset lid swelling (p < 0.01), diplopia (p < 0.01), flashing lights (p = 0.02), or droopy eyelid (p < 0.01). Patients presenting with symptom onset within 48 h tended to be younger (45.8 years) versus those with symptom duration of 48 h to 1 week (49.6 years), or more than 1 week (52.6 years; p < 0.01).
This novel tele-triage system screened out one-third of acute visit requests as non-urgent, which limited in-person visits during the initial shelter-in-place period of the pandemic. Tele-triage systems should be implemented in eye care practices for future emergency preparedness.

© 2021. The Author(s).