• Written By: Nancy Eve Thomas, MD
    Comprehensive Ophthalmology, Retina/Vitreous

    This article reports the results of a telephone call center for counseling patients with retinal diseases established in Germany by a university ophthalmology department. The German Retina Hotline was staffed by ophthalmologists with expertise in retinal diseases, who took a half-day workshop on telephone counseling.

    Standard flow charts were used to handle calls, with counsel adhering to a list of standardized answers as appropriate for individual cases. There were 1,384 callers during 15 months, which worked out to an average of 7.6 calls per afternoon. The average call lasted 8.5 minutes. 

    They found that the majority of calls did not need to be handled by retinal specialists, but could be handled by a trained lay person. Most calls were from dry or wet AMD patients who wanted to confirm their therapeutic options. Many of them said their physician had not taken enough time to talk with them. The authors conclude that nonmedical staff can be trained to answer questions asked by Retina Hotline callers.

    The Moorfields Eye Hospital in London operates the Moorfields Direct help line, which is staffed by nurses and provides answers to ophthalmic-related patient queries. It would be interesting to see the catalogue of those calls.