To the Editor:
We look on with concern, as the COVID-19 virus pandemic continues to disrupt the delivery of ophthalmic care. Whilst the focus has remained on deaths due to COVID-19, the indirect effects related to reductions in the provision of ophthalmic services should not be underestimated. Emerging data has also shown increased patient anxiety and concern regarding their eye care.
The patient-reported outcome and experience measure (POEM) is a validated eight-item questionnaire for use in glaucoma [1, 2]. The questionnaire addresses aspects of outcome (acceptability of treatment, fear of blindness, impact on daily life) and aspects of experience (safety, understanding, organization of care). We used POEM to investigate the change in glaucoma patient experience and attitudes caused by the COVID pandemic.
One hundred and twenty-six consecutive patients attending a tertiary centre glaucoma clinic over a 2-week period in September 2020 were surveyed. An additional column explicitly asking if each POEM item in question was more of a concern during the COVID pandemic was added to the questionnaire (Appendix 1). Questionnaire responses conducted during the pandemic were compared to those pre-pandemic. The questionnaires were conducted anonymously with no pairing to clinical data or demographics.
Survey results showed that the largest change in terms of percentage of patients who agree or strongly agree occurred in item Q2, Q4, Q7 and Q8, which all showed at least a 10–15% decrease in agreement from pre COVID questionnaire (Fig. 1). Patients identified Q6, Q7 and Q8 to be the aspects that COVID has affected most with 28.8%, 32.1% and 40.2% ‘yes’ responses, respectively (Fig. 2).
POEM items Q7 and Q8 pertains to patients’ perception of their treatment team, whilst Q2 represents the way glaucoma is treated. These large percentage changes show increasing uncertainty amongst patients about how their glaucoma is managed during the crisis. Impaired confidence in the glaucoma team may not only cause unnecessary concern but cause issues with compliance that could contribute to disease progression.
Responses to Q4 demonstrate that patients are increasingly less confident that the progression of their glaucoma remains stable. In addition, we found that the cohort of patients most concerned about losing vision is 25% more likely to tick ‘yes’ when asked if COVID had caused more concern, indicating that the COVID crisis has explicitly exacerbated these concerns. This is especially worrying as even before the crisis, glaucoma units were already struggling with a backlog of patients, with some delays resulting in loss of vision .
Overall, the results of our study show that patients are more uncertain of their glaucoma care. This may reflect the heightened anxiety associated with COVID as well as generalized delays in clinic follow up during the COVID pandemic. Pre-pandemic, many glaucoma units were already managing a backlog of outpatients, associated with heightened anxiety around aspects of glaucoma care . The POEM questionnaire highlights that this situation has been exacerbated by COVID. Further studies investigating delays in patient appointments with impacts on visual acuity deterioration as well as true glaucomatous progression will further elucidate the psychological and physiological impacts that COVID has had.
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Addenbrookes Glaucoma COVID response consortium
Maaz A. Khan1, Bryan L. C. Loh1, Gopija Nanthagopan1, Arun James Thirunavukarasu1, Aaron P. L. Fleming1, Suraya Yusuf1, Xiu Sheng Tan1, Shravan V. Gowrishankar1, Mrudula Utukuri1, Gabriella C. A. Gilks1, Marie-Julie Anna Maria Cnudde1, Sajan Rajani1, Lionel Dufour1, Reema Pujari1, Rynda Nitiahpapand1, Paolo Scollo1, Rupert Bourne1, Geoffrey Chan1, Sharon Springdal1, Daniel Kelly1, Amy Page1
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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Presentation of this work and link to additional material: While conducting this research, we also used conversations with four patients to brief an actress who prepared a monologue that highlights these key areas, accessible via the following link, https://player.vimeo.com/video/488126493. This was screened in an online seminar entitled ‘A 360 degree look at new care models in glaucoma-making virtual clinics work for patients, clinicians and service providers’ on 15th October 2020, organised and funded by Santen UK Limited.
Members of the Addenbrookes Glaucoma COVID response consortium are listed above References.
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Pujari, R., Chan, G., Tapply, I. et al. The impacts of COVID-19 on glaucoma patient outcomes as assessed by POEM. Eye 36, 653–655 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41433-021-01425-0
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