Many patients with sight-threatening conditions such as AMD and glaucoma lost vision during the COVID-19 pandemic due to missed eye care appointments. In this new era, digital technology is likely to play a major role in patient care. A recent study analyzed the ways COVID-19-related pressures have affected digital technology acceptance in ophthalmology and found that there may be a new precedent for digital innovations in healthcare.

The literature review spanned the use of digital technology during COVID-19 and, in particular, the transformation of medicine, ophthalmology and AMD screening through digitalization.

The researchers found that several measures have been bolstering AMD screening, diagnosis and monitoring efforts, including artificial intelligence and virtual clinics. Additionally, at-home monitoring systems benefitted from software and hardware developments.

“Telemedicine has been integral in improving screening programs of ophthalmological diseases,” the researchers wrote in their paper. They noted the importance of machine learning in remote screening software and stated that these algorithms have “demonstrated the potential to perform different AMD classification tasks at high accuracy and noninferiority when compared with retinal specialists or professional human graders.”

“COVID-19 was an unexpected catalyst for digitalization progression in this century and transformation of people’s daily lives,” the researchers wrote. They concluded that digitalization has become part of the new normal in healthcare and is now “essential” to combat the effects of the pandemic. “There is an urgent unmet need to transform the way care is provisioned for AMD during this crisis and beyond. Digital transformation may be the solution for ensuring safety in all aspects of AMD management.”

Sim SS, Yip MYT, Wang Z, et al. Digital technology for AMD management in the post-COVID-19 new normal. Asia Pac J Ophthalmol (Phila). 2021;10(1):39-48.