BACKGROUND: Ophthalmology is one of the most requested medical speciality services in the elderly population. Although numerous studies have shown the potentials of telemedicine for the provision of ophthalmology services, the extent of its usability in older adults and the aged population is not clear. The aim of this study was to investigate the characteristics and usability features of teleophthalmology for the elderly population. METHOD: We searched PubMed, Embase, Scopus and CINAHL for relevant studies since 2008. Forty-five papers met the eligibility criteria and included in this review. We used a multifaceted model to extract the data and analyze findings by cross-tabulation. RESULTS: The majority of the reviewed papers included participants of 65 years of age or older. Most of the studies were conducted in the USA (38 %). Diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and cataract were the most researched eye diseases, and among the imaging technologies, retinal photography had been used the most (72 %). The studies showed teleophthalmology can improve access to specialty care, reduce the number of unnecessary visits, alleviate overloads on treatment centers, and provide more comprehensive exams. It also made services cost-saving for stakeholders and cost-effective in rural areas. However, teleophthalmology was not cost-effective for patients above 80 and low-density population areas. CONCLUSION: Evidence is lacking for the usability and effectiveness of teleophthalmology for the elderly population. The findings suggest that primary care providers in collaboration with ophthalmologists could provide more effective eye care to elderly population. Appropriate training is also necessary for primary care doctors to manage and refer older patients in a timely manner. Diagnostic value and cost-effective imaging modalities which are the core of the teleophthalmology, can be enhanced by image processing techniques and artificial intelligence.
Centre for Online Health, Faculty of Medicine, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia; Australian e-Health Research Centre, CSIRO, Australia. Electronic address: firstname.lastname@example.org.