Optometry patient care and consultation has rapidly changed since the outbreak of COVID-19, with social distancing and the initial stay-at-home restrictions reducing the opportunity for face-to-face appointments and paving the way for tele-health services.
Although these restrictions are slowly starting to ease and many optometry practices have started resuming their full suite of services, some of the technologies and processes implemented throughout COVID-19 have highlighted the true potential of digital consultation – particularly for those who live in remote and rural areas or have chronic eye conditions and need urgent appointments.
One such technology is Melbourne Rapid Fields (MRF) visual field software which launched in Australia four years ago as a tool for optometrists to provide portable, rapid and accurate threshold testing of the visual field (side or peripheral vision) for patients with eye and neurological conditions.
Over the years, MRF has expanded to offer a series of at-home test modules aiding in assessing and tracking visual acuity, visual field, and hemi-spatial neglect – a neuropsychological condition resulting from damage to one hemisphere of the brain that causes an individual to lose awareness of one field of vision.
The innovative technology offers robotic guided assistance for patients in 10 different languages in a bid to provide early detection and monitoring of the following vision problems:
- Age-related macular degeneration
- Macular oedema from diabetes or retinal vein occlusion
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Neurological conditions such as stroke, multiple sclerosis, and optic neuritis
According to Professor Algis Vingrys from Melbourne University’s Department of Optometry & Vision Sciences, who together with his partner Dr. George Kong developed MRF, COVID-19 has brought about the concept of social isolation which has seen an increase in the number of optometrists embracing the software as a means to administer remote patient care.
“The MRF technology enables optometrists to ask their patients to complete a vision test at home using a desktop computer or laptop. Once completed, the results will be sent to their optometrist who can assess the outcome and decide how best to manage the patient’s condition,” said Professor Vingrys.
“The software is such that it guides the patient through the test in the absence of a clinician or assistant, and the results obtained from home have been found in clinical trials to be reliable and repeatable.”
Since its release, over 75 optometry practices and hospitals across Australia have implemented the software, conducting well over 10,000 MRF tests combined. As more Australian practices and hospitals embrace the Australian technology, there is also a growing interest in MRF across Europe, the United States and India.
Professor Vingrys added, “Because of COVID-19, we’re learning a lot more about optometry and how we can practice for the benefit of patients and our communities.
“My feeling is that this type of technology will become the future of optometry because it allows sophisticated vision tests to be produced in a cost-effective way whilst being made available on portable platforms for all optometrists to use everywhere, and at any time.”
MRF is registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in Australia as a perimetry (or visual field test) device. MRF was developed in partnership with University of Melbourne and the Royal Eye and Ear Hospital Melbourne. To find out more visit visiondata.net.au.
If you’re concerned about your vision and interested in taking a MRF test at home contact your local optometrist to discuss your tele-health consultation options. Alternatively, use our Find an Optometrist search function to find a local optometrist who offers tele-health services, by selecting COVID-19: Telehealth in the ‘Services Provided’ drop-down box.