Can a mobile phone application be used for teleophthalmology in a combat zone?
In this case series of 28 consults, military medics and clinicians at forward operating bases in Afghanistan placed teleophthalmology consults on their mobile phone devices and an expeditionary ophthalmologist deployed to a military hospital in Afghanistan responded. Teleophthalmology consultation prevented the need for some aeromedical evacuations and allowed patients to return to duty in 54% of consults.
Teleophthalmology mobile phone apps in this environment may improve and extend ophthalmic care.
The coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic has highlighted the need to expand telemedicine solutions.
To beta test a secure teleophthalmology mobile app at military treatment facilities in Afghanistan.
Design, Setting, and Participants
This prospective case series included 16 military treatment facilities at diverse roles of care including forward operating bases in Afghanistan and 1 location outside of Afghanistan. Thirty point-of-care medics and medical professionals were included from September to November 2019.
Users placed teleophthalmology consults on their mobile phone using the mobile eye care app, and an expeditionary ophthalmologist stationed at a military hospital in Afghanistan responded. Users graded the mobile app using a rating scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being very dissatisfied and 5 being very satisfied.
Main Outcomes and Measures
Mean initial response time, agreement between the teleophthalmology diagnosis and final diagnosis, treatment and management following recommendations outlined in the Joint Trauma System clinical practice guidelines, prevention of the need for aeromedical evacuation, user satisfaction, and security and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act compliance of consult.
There were 28 consults placed over 6 weeks by 18 different users that were received by the expeditionary ophthalmologist. The mean (SD) patient age was 30.3 (9.8) years. Most patients were male (26 [93%]) and active duty US military (22 [78%]). The mean initial response time was 3 minutes 58 seconds (95% CI, 2 minutes 30 seconds to 5 minutes 26 seconds). There was agreement between the teleophthalmology diagnosis and final diagnosis in 24 consults (86%; 95% CI, 72%-100%). The treatment and management followed recommendations outlined in the Joint Trauma System Clinical Practice Guidelines for Eye Trauma: Initial Care in 28 consults (100%). Teleophthalmology consultation prevented the need for aeromedical evacuation in 4 consults (14%; 95% CI, 0.7%-28%). The patient returned to duty in 15 consults (54%; 95% CI, 34%-73%). Median overall satisfaction was 5 (minimum, 3; maximum, 5). All 28 consults (100%) were secure and compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Conclusions and Relevance
While only a limited number of consults were evaluated, this study suggests that teleophthalmology mobile phone apps may improve and extend ophthalmic care in combat zones.
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Gensheimer WG, Miller KE, Stowe J, Little J, Legault GL. Military Teleophthalmology in Afghanistan Using Mobile Phone Application. JAMA Ophthalmol. Published online August 27, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2020.3090
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