A new smartphone accessory called Peek Vision could be the first step in revolutionizing the way the poor are able to get essential eye care.
Peek Vision is what its makers call a portable eye examination kit. The brainchild of British hygienist Dr. Andrew Bastawrous of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the app allows people in the field to administer full eye exams in far-flung places and remote villages.
These tests include the basics that people who visit the eye doctor in more wealthy countries have come to expect, including retina examinations, color vision testing, depth-of-field testing and visual acuity. Once a test is administered by someone trained to use the smartphone application, the patient’s records are archived and tagged with the GPS coordinates of the patient. This allows a local eye care professional to easily follow-up with the patient. In places where street addresses and high levels of literacy aren’t all that common, the solution could be life altering.
Although the technology could easily be useful across the planet, its creator believes that where it could do the best work is in countries that don’t offer widespread optical care for the poor. That being said, it’s only as helpful as the health-care system that surrounds it. Examinees would still need to have an eye-care professional follow-up with them for treatment, meaning treatment could still be a problem in some countries.
A study performed by the Peek Vision organization, the British non-profit who is behind the application, indicates that due to infrastructure and the number of readily available eye care professionals, the application could make the most difference in places like Africa and northern India, where professionals are available but are only operating at between 30% and 40% capacity. Dr. Bastawrous himself is currently leading a study and examinations that focus on some 5,000 people he first examined five years ago. Studies have already found that over 39 million people on the planet are blind. Of those people, 80% of those cases were avoidable.
While smartphones are most used to socialize and capture memories, it’s important to remember that perhaps the modern smartphone’s greatest contribution to society will be its ability to level the playing field for many of the underprivileged in developing-world countries.
The Peek Vision Organization says that it’s in the earliest studies of gathering the hardware and building the software it needs. So far it’s partnered with the University of St. Andrews, the Glasgow Centre for Ophthalmic Research, Fight for Sight, the British Council for Prevention of Blindness and the National Health System for Great Glasgow and Clyde, among others.
It’s inviting people who like to contribute to the project to contact it already from its website.