Financial constraints and a tightening economy due to the effect of COVID-19 should not prevent patients from accessing their sight saving eye injections, says Dr Devinder Chauhan, a retinal ophthalmologist at Vision Eye Institute’s dedicated eye injection clinic in Boronia, Victoria.
Like many retinal specialists, Dr Chauhan noticed a drop in patients attending appointments due to fears associated with COVID-19 transmission. As infection rates significantly decline, he is eager to remind them of the importance of injection treatment and to reassure them of affordability.
“Missing appointments or choosing not to have injections can cause permanent loss of vision,” he said.
The eye injection clinic at Vision Eye Institute Boronia was established in 2016 to offer affordable and convenient intravitreal injections in an effort to combat high rates of patients abandoning treatment. Whereas around 26% of patients across Australia are known to discontinue injection treatment after 12 months due to significant out-of-pocket costs and inconvenience,* the patient drop out over four years at the Boronia clinic has been just 2.1%.
At the Boronia clinic, there are zero out-ofpocket expenses for consultations and scans for patients with a current referral letter who are receiving eye injections for a medical condition.
Melbourne patient John Agius has been having intravitreal injections in his right eye since 2007.
The day he first noticed a visual disturbance, and then the commencement of his treatment journey remains clear in his memory.
“I’d turned on the computer having returned from dropping my wife at the airport. I was looking at a document in a tabular format and suddenly the horizontal and vertical lines changed. I looked with one eye and everything was normal. I tried with the other eye and it wasn’t. It was late in the day so my brother drove me to the optometrist early the next morning and I was booked straight in to see Dr Chauhan at his Box Hill clinic,” recalled Mr Agius.
Regular injections ensued and over time the intervals between treatments were extended, until being brought back to four-weekly following a bleed.
When Dr Chauhan started practising at the Boronia clinic, Mr Agius was referred to him there and immediately appreciated the advantages.
“I’ve always believed that health is important and I feel very fortunate to have been referred over to Boronia where I only pay $6.50 each month – the cost of the prescription. I hear about people stopping treatment because of the cost then losing their sight – that’s a horrifying thought,” he said.
Importantly, Mr Agius said the streamlined procedure at Boronia is personable, thorough and caring. Treatment, including vision tests, pressure tests, scans and the injection, takes place in less than half an hour and the doctor takes time to converse about disease progress and any visual disturbances Mr Agius has noticed. Follow-up appointments are scheduled and he is always reminded to come in sooner if any visual disturbances are noted in the interim.
“If anything, it’s a better experience than other clinics because it is so streamlined that there is less time to become anxious about the injection,” he said.
Yes, even after 13 years, Mr Agius says he still feels a level of apprehension every time he attends for treatment. “But the apprehension is much worse than the pain – all I feel is a quick, small amount of pressure,” he said. “I feel so fortunate to have been diagnosed all those years ago and to have been treated so well – the alternative, to have lost my vision, would have been devastating.”
Vision Eye Institutes’ Boronia eye injection clinic was recently expanded due to unprecedented demand for an affordable eye injection service in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs.
“By expanding the clinic and our eye injection service, we are able to take on a greater number of patients, which further helps to alleviate some of the burden on the healthcare system as a whole,” said Dr Chauhan.
The clinic accepts patients with referrals from all over Victoria and only first time visits attract out of pocket expenses for the initial consultation.
“As long as a patient is willing to travel, we can accept them at our clinic. For some patients, it may actually be cheaper and quicker to catch a taxi to Boronia, have their injection and then taxi home again. Unfortunately, patients can wait hours for an injection in many clinics. Our dedicated eye injection clinic ensures that everyone can access high-quality care in a private clinic during a short appointment and with a minimal out-of-pocket cost. “
Everybody’s sight is precious, and we want to make sure that there’s no reason for anyone to stop their injections against their doctor’s recommendation, whether that be due to cost or inconvenience.”
*Novartis Data on file