In 2019, patients are expected to wait an average of 42 days to see an ophthalmologist. This has now been reduced to an average of 26 days.
This improvement is due to better coordination and collaboration between ophthalmologists, orthoptists (experts in the diagnosis and treatment of eye movement abnormalities) and opticians. Orthoptists and opticians are now allowed to renew prescriptions, for example, which helps reduce congestion in eye clinics.
In addition, the bill on the financing of social security by 2022 allows orthoptists to prescribe glasses or contact lenses without going through an ophthalmologist, which the SNOF is opposed to.
The average waiting time differs according to the regions of France.
Brittany has seen the biggest reduction in wait times to see ophthalmologists, from an average of 126 days in 2019 to just 29 days in 2021.
Normandy also experienced a drastic drop, from 135 days to 65 days over the same period.
In Center-Val de Loire, the waiting time has been reduced from 83 days to 41 days.
Ile-de-France residents can expect to wait an average of 16 days to get an appointment with an ophthalmologist.
The average wait in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur is now 27 days.
However, the waiting period has increased from two weeks in Bourgogne-Franche-Comté to 44 days on average, and from 20 days in Corsica to 59 days on average.
The type of consultation is also taken into account, with generally shorter waiting times throughout France for an urgent consultation with an ophthalmologist. The longest wait period for emergency appointments is in Normandy, with patients expected to wait around 25 days, two days less than in 2019.
Online consultation trial
A one-year trial is underway in the department of Aisne (Hauts-de-France) offering patients online consultations with an ophthalmologist.
Point Vision, a national network of ophthalmology centers, opened a specialized center in a hospital in Saint-Quentin last June where ophthalmologists can perform online consultations.
In Saint-Quentin, it takes an average of six months to get an appointment with a specialist, which is why the town was chosen as a test case by the National Health Insurance Fund (CNAM).
Online consultations have reduced the waiting period to three weeks.
The local CPAM reimburses consultations, reserved for patients whose doctor is involved in the trial, with the center located at the Saint Claude-Elsan private hospital.
Francois Pelen, co-founder of Point Vision, said that if a further examination is required after the online consultation, patients can come to the center in person.
“Our intention is to open two or three advanced teleconsultation stations in each of our major centers,” said Mr. Pelen. Point Vision has 40 ophthalmology practices in France.
SNOF president Dr Thierry Bour remains skeptical of the trial.
“It should be seen as a complement [to regular check ups] and not as an end in itself, ”he told franceinfo on September 20.
The number of eye specialists in France has decreased by 5.4% since 2007, reports the French medical information site What’s Up Doc.
This is because many ophthalmologists retire without being replaced.
“The aim of our project is to work in medical deserts where no young doctor can be found to replace those who leave,” Pelen said.
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