UK Doctor Uses Smartphone to Prevent Blindness Abroad

Dr. Andrew Bastawrous developed a mobile app to bring the optician clinic to poor residents in isolated areas.

Posted: 08/20/2013 01:00 PM EDT

Could a smartphone app cure millions of visually impaired people?

Given that 285 million people are blind or visually impaired, according to the World Health Organization, one doctor thinks the idea is worth a try.

Dr. Andrew Bastawrous of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine developed Peek (Portable Eye Examination Kit), a smartphone app that can scan the lens of the eye for cataracts, test basic eye vision, email the results and GPS location to doctors and more.

Trials are currently underway in Nakuru, Kenya, where the doctor and his team have tested the product on about 2,000 locals thus far. The results revealed that roughly 10 percent of the testers had cataracts and needed treatment, all of which the team provided out-of-pocket, reported Voices of America.  

In creating the app, Dr. Bastawrous was searching for a solution not to a lack of eye doctors — even the poorest major towns and cities have ophthalmologists — but to the inaccessibility of their offices for many people in impoverished communities.

"Patients who need it most will never be able to reach hospital because they're the ones beyond the end of the road, they don't have income to find transport so we needed a way to find them," Dr. Bastawrous told BBC News.

"What we can do using this is the technicians can go to the patients to their homes, examine them at their front doors and diagnose them there and then."

The BBC News reported:

The idea is already attracting praise even at an early stage. Peter Ackland, from the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, said: "I think the Peek tool is potentially a huge game changer.

"If you're a breadwinner and you can't see and you can't work then the whole family is in crisis."

At the moment we simply don't have the trained eye health staff to bring eye care services to the poorest communities. This tool will enable us to do that with relatively untrained people.

"The greatest need is in poor countries where around 90% of the world's blind and visually impaired people live."

Read the full story here.

 

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(Photo: Courtesy of fPeekVision.org)

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