The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has drastically changed how comprehensive ophthalmology practices care for patients.
To report practice patterns for common ocular complaints during the initial stage of the COVID-19 pandemic among comprehensive ophthalmology practices in the US.
In this cross-sectional study, 40 private practices and 20 university centers were randomly selected from 4 regions across the US. Data were collected on April 29 and 30, 2020.
Investigators placed telephone calls to each ophthalmology practice office. Responses to 3 clinical scenarios-refraction request, cataract evaluation, and symptoms of a posterior vitreous detachment-were compared regionally and between private and university centers.
The primary measure was time to next appointment for each of the 3 scenarios. Secondary measures included use of telemedicine and advertisement of COVID-19 precautions.
Of the 40 private practices, 2 (5%) were closed, 24 (60%) were only seeing urgent patients, and 14 (35%) remained open to all patients. Of the 20 university centers, 2 (10%) were closed, 17 (85%) were only seeing urgent patients, and 1 (5%) remained open to all patients. There were no differences for any telemedicine metric. University centers were more likely than private practices to mention preparations to limit the spread of COVID-19 (17 of 20 [85%] vs 14 of 40 [35%]; mean difference, 0.41; 95% CI, 0.26-0.65; P < .001). Private practices had a faster next available appointment for cataract evaluations than university centers, with a mean (SD) time to visit of 22.1 (27.0) days vs 75.5 (46.1) days (mean difference, 53.4; 95% CI, 23.1-83.7; P < .001). Private practices were also more likely than university centers to be available to see patients with flashes and floaters (30 of 40 [75%] vs 8 of 20 [40%]; mean difference, 0.42; 95% CI, 0.22-0.79; P = .01).
In this cross-sectional study of investigator telephone calls to ophthalmology practice offices, there were uniform recommendations for the 3 routine ophthalmic complaints. Private practices had shorter times to next available appointment for cataract extraction and were more likely to evaluate posterior vitreous detachment symptoms. As there has not been a study examining these practice patterns before the COVID-19 pandemic, the relevance of these findings on public health is yet to be determined.