French ophthalmologists plan to set up their mobile clinic in isolated rural areas

ByMartha R. Camara

Dec 17, 2021

Ophthalmologists have found an original solution to overcome the shortage of ophthalmologists in France, especially in rural areas.

They put away their equipment, loaded into the “TOM” truck – abbreviation of “mobile tele ophthalmology” – and take their service on the road, crisscrossing the countryside villages devoid of private ophthalmologists.

As part of the “TOM” initiative, an orthoptist is sent with the truck to perform the examination in person, then an ophthalmologist consults the patient by teleconference.

An orthoptist is an expert in treating defects in eye movement and binocular vision, while an ophthalmologist is a medically trained doctor who specializes in eye injuries and diseases.

“The observation is simple: the average, if I’m not being stupid, in ophthalmology is 57. There is therefore a huge lack in this specialty”, explained Maximilien Courtois, the co-founder of the TOM company.

“It’s not going to get better with people retiring. This won’t be resolved for a long time. There are areas where there are no ophthalmologists and there won’t be any more.”

So far, patients have been impressed with the convenience and professionalism of the service, although they remain wary of screens becoming the primary interface for medical consultations.

“It’s fine, and there is human contact. The orthoptist is very nice, there is a great bond. We have a new appointment and we will see the same person. So everything is fine,” said Marylène Marie , TOM patient.

“But we have to set limits in this system. There are limits and be careful not to… screens everywhere, all appointments via a screen, not all digital! Even less for the medical sector!”

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