FAQ – Telemedicine


1. What is telemedicine?

Telemedicine is the transfer of medical information via telecommunication technologies for the purpose of consulting or for remote medical procedures or examinations.

2. How would it be used for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP)?

Digital images can be taken of an infant’s retina. They are then sent over the internet for evaluation by a doctor. A decision is then made as to whether an infant should continue screening or requires examination at the bedside, and possibly treatment.

3. Who takes the pictures?

A nurse in the intensive care unit who has been trained and certified for the task takes the pictures.

4. How often are images taken?

They are taken weekly at a minimum, more often if needed.

5. Is it painful for an infant to have photographs taken?

Infants will experience some stress with examination, whether done by a physician at the bedside or by digital imaging. Topical anesthesia is applied to the surface of the eye, and a speculum is used to hold the lids open in both instances. Both exams take about the same amount of time in experienced hands, and the level of discomfort is comparable and mild.

6. Where does the image information go?

Images are uploaded to a central server where they are stored, and accessed for interpretation.

7. Who interprets the images?

An ophthalmologist who has been certified for the task does the interpretation.

8. What if problems are seen in the images?

Abnormal or questionably abnormal findings trigger a bedside retina examination.

9. Are exams still necessary after my baby leaves the NICU, and for how long?

Yes. Infants at risk for ROP are followed until 52 weeks after conception. Since most infants are discharged from neonatal intensive care well before that age, some exams are usually still necessary in the weeks after discharge to ensure the best visual outcome for your child.

10. What happens if we do not follow recommendations for additional follow-up examinations?

Since the problem is within the eye, it is not something you can watch for – only a ophthalmologist with experience following ROP can judge when the eyes are free of ROP risk. Failing to keep follow-up appointments puts your child at risk of blindness.