UCSF offers drive-through eye exam amid coronavirus pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A Bay Area eye clinic is speeding up the way they offer exams during the novel coronavirus pandemic. It's in an effort to make sure they catch any changes that could signal trouble for a patient.

As an ophthalmologist at UCSF, Miel Sundararajan, M.D., is trained to spot dangerous developments in the eye. The challenge is that she has to examine patients to do it. With COVID-19 and social distancing, many patients may not be scheduling their normal checkups.

"One of the main things we need to check for those patients is the eye pressure because a sustained increase in the eye pressure can lead to lasting damage in the vision which is called Glaucoma," says Dr. Sundararajan.

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So to speed things up, the UCSF team has moved their clinic closer to the patients, setting up a drive-through eye pressure test in the parking lot of the Proctor Foundation on the Parnassus campus.

"So we use the iCare which is a rebound tonometer, which is great, we don't have to use any drops to numb the patient's eye and there's a small replaceable part that bounces off the cornea, the front of the eye, and lets us check the pressure quickly," she explains.

By the time patient Christine Lachman rolls up, the test is set, and the total time from check-in to check-out is about a minute or two.

"And you're going to rotate slightly so you're facing out," the physician instructs Lachman as she undergoes the test from her driver's seat. "Thank you, look straight ahead, perfect."

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They say the goal is to catch any warning signs early by staying connected with patients who may be hesitant to visit a doctor's office during the shelter-in-place.

"In the COVID environment, you want to minimize that as much as possible. So I thought great, I drive-in, I roll down my window, it's perfect," says Lachman.

Doctors say the exams are also important because many eye conditions can progress quickly before patients are feeling any symptoms. In Lachman's case, the pressure reading is slightly high. A real-time evaluation that can be checked in the clinic or on a follow-up appointment. Potentially heading off more serious trouble with a minimum of inconvenience.
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