With telehealth visits and in-office safety precautions, Rutzen Eye Specialists & Laser Center is going the extra mile to put patients at ease during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Telehealth really increased after the pandemic started and we had the stay-at-home order,” said Dr. Allan Rutzen. “We have a lot of experience with telehealth systems, and some other medical offices have looked to us as a model.”
Rutzen and Dr. Jacey Hanna are using FaceTime, Zoom, Doxy and other platforms to communicate with patients. The doctors tried several apps in search of ones that are user-friendly.
“We have experimented with different systems and we’ve come across some that are easy, that anyone can do,” Rutzen said. “Some patients are nervous, but then they are just delighted that they have this chance to meet with us that way.
“FaceTime is as easy as answering your phone — there is no need to download an app if you have an iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer,” he added.
Rutzen and his team are still providing the same personalized service during both virtual exams and in-person visits. The staff is following protocols outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Ophthalmology.
When someone needs an appointment, the staff first gets information about the problem by phone. The waiting area is closed, so patients may wait a few minutes in their car once they arrive, but Rutzen emphasized that wait times are brief. Once the doctor is ready, the patient will get a call and then will be brought directly to a room for their exam.
“We used to have a lot of patients in the reception area and patients whose pupils were dilating, and magazines, food and candy,” Rutzen said. “Now we bring patients straight in, they walk to an exam room, they get seen promptly and they get discharged promptly, but we don’t rush anybody. We still have the same personal, customized service that we have always had, but we just don’t have a process where we have waiting anymore. It’s much more abbreviated.”
Only two or three patients are in the office at a given time. Commercial-grade air purifiers have been placed in every room to filter the air, a measure not necessarily required by CDC guidelines, but “air purifiers are an added safety measure for our patients and staff,” Rutzen said.
Patients with emergencies are seen the same day. Other problems are addressed quickly, depending on the patients’ needs.
When it comes to telehealth, it is hard to do a complete eye exam, Rutzen said, but he can take care of a wide variety of eye problems this way.
“When we use telehealth, the video resolution is very good, and we can see more than patients might think,” Rutzen said. “For example, we can examine the eyelid for signs of an infection. We can see things like redness, tearing and swelling. We can look at the iris and pupil to see how that reacts to the light.”
There are some conditions that require a face-to-face office visit, such as cataracts or diabetic retinopathy. “Dr. Hanna and I can still see more with a microscope, and it’s good to see patients face to face for these types of eye problems.”
While it is anyone’s guess when life will get back to a more normal routine, Rutzen is glad that his staff has found a way to help patients with their eye care while keeping their overall health a priority.
“My staff and I feel very glad we can still offer a full range of health care options,” Rutzen said. “We do see patients for emergencies and surgery. We really enjoy being able to still offer our services. It’s very gratifying.”
Rutzen Eye Specialists & Laser Center is located at 489 Ritchie Highway, Suite 200, in Severna Park. To make an appointment, call 410-975-0090, or learn more at www.rutzeneye.com.