Methods: A prospective cohort study at the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and Moorfields Eye Hospital between June 2016 and July 2017 of the management decision of 400 patients reviewed by an ophthalmologist in a face-to-face consultation (gold standard) supported by fundus photography, optical coherence tomography, autofluorescence (AF) and B-mode ultrasound. The images were also read independently by blinded graders (non-medical) and blinded ophthalmologists, and a management decision was made based on image review alone (virtual pathway). The two pathways were compared for safety.
Results: The agreement for management decisions between face-to-face and virtual pathways was 83.1% (non-medical) and 82.6% (medical). There were more over-referrals in the virtual pathway (non-medical 24.3%, medical 23.3% of gold standard discharge) and only two under-referrals (10.5% of gold standard referrals), both borderline cases with minimal clinical risk. The agreement for risk factors of growth (orange pigment, subretinal fluid, hyper-AF) ranged between 82.3% and 97.3%.
Conclusions: We prospectively validated a virtual clinic model for the safe management of choroidal naevi. Such a model of care is feasible with low rate of under-referral. An over-referral rate of almost 24% from the vitrual pathway needs to be factored into designing such pathways in conjunction with evidence on their cost-effectiveness.