Home CATEGORIES Health & Sanitation The Evolving Epidemiology of COVID-19 and its Impact on Eye Care Services

The Evolving Epidemiology of COVID-19 and its Impact on Eye Care Services

The impact of the COVID 19 pandemic has reverberated across the global, regional and local economies. The eye care ecosystem is no exception to the epidemiology of COVID-19; service delivery, education and research are witnessing major roadblocks.
In the absence of a vaccine or a drug that can treat the viral infection as of date, non-pharmacological methods like safe distancing to prevent droplet infection, hand sanitation and wearing face covers are ways to prevent human transmission of the infection.
At an individual level, there are three key short and long-term impacts of the current situation. Firstly, access to healthcare and daily living routine has been severely hampered. Secondly, we see some individuals are impacted more than the others owing either to their current health or socioeconomic status. Lastly, different individuals handle stress differently, and the long-term repercussions of this is yet to be ascertained.
Healthcare service delivery is impacted too. Much of the current focus in health care is on the immediate challenges of the COVID 19 pandemic and rightfully so. However, the current situation will certainly leave a lasting impact on the healthcare system.
1. Increased awareness about hygiene and adoption of safe practices such as handwashing will have a long-term impact on community health and consequently the public health system
2. Pause in care for patients with other ailments, especially chronic diseases can lead to an increased burden on the healthcare system in the long-term
3. Ongoing efforts to strengthen healthcare infrastructure around the country may result in long-term benefits; public-private partnerships (PPP) can make a huge difference in scaling the efforts in this area
4. Internalization of pharma supply chain and ‘Make in India’ medical equipment can change healthcare economics for good
5. Telemedicine is seeing a huge surge in adoption and might redefine the ways in which we seek healthcare
6. Lastly, Medical tourism will continue to see a dip
If we are to speak of eye care,
1. Handwashing and general hygiene practices would limit the spread of infectious diseases such as Trachoma
2. Resuming care for routine and chronic eye conditions as well as access to follow up might lead to an increased burden on eye hospitals post-COVID
3. Staff safety continues to remain a priority across eye care touchpoints
4. Eyecare will receive lower resource allocation. Therefore, partnerships and collaboration are the way forward
5. Newer ways of reaching out to communities have to explore in the absence of outreach camps, a trademark in community eye care
6. Reduced time outdoor and increased screen time will further the problem of Myopia
7. Telemedicine platforms such as Orbis’s Cybersight is already seeing a huge swell. And this trend would only continue.
Besides, research and product development, as well as national and international conferences, have slowed down drastically impacting both academia and industry alike.
As we adapt to the “New Normal” and develop alternate processes and protocols for our institutions, it is important to understand the epidemiology of COVID 19. Often called “the cornerstone” of public health, epidemiology is the study of the distribution and determinants of diseases, health conditions, or events among populations and the application of that study to control health problems. New research is being initiated in various parts of the world to study the COVID 19 and our understanding about this virus is evolving by the day. At this juncture it is crucial for healthcare service providers, public health professionals and policymakers to develop an epidemiological understanding to conceptualise, develop, and deliver effective programs and policies.
Professor ShamannaDr. B.R. Shamanna is Professor at School of Medical Sciences, University of Hyderabad. He recently presented this topic to eyecare professionals across 19 countries at the Orbis Cybersight webinar series on ‘Unlocking Possibilities Beyond Lockdown’.

Views of the author are personal and do not necessarily represent the website’s views.

Thank you for reading the column. Please drop a line and help us do better.