Smartphones Are Being Turned Into Cheap Portable Eye-Exam Kits

An ingenious way to diagnose eye diseases in hard-to-reach rural patients.

Can a humble smartphone serve as a substitute for expensive medical equipment to diagnose eye diseases? The answer is yes.

A team of doctors from London's Moorfields Eye Hospital has developed an ingenious solution to cracking down on eye disease in rural Kenya, according to Reuters. By using a special app and the flashlight on a smartphone camera, doctors can illuminate patients' retinas to check for cataracts, glaucoma, infections, and other diseases. The high-definition photos are then emailed to the Moorfields Eye Hospital for further analysis and diagnosis.

The app is called PEEK--short for Portable Eye Examination Kit--and the team behind it says it has been used to treat over 1,000 patients so far. It is currently running in beta on Android 4.0 or above, but the team says it plans to make it available on other platforms, including iOS.

"It's difficult to take trained personnel and expensive equipment to these patients," says Dr. Andrew Bastawrous, who is in Kenya testing the PEEK project. "And coming to big cities for them is a barrier because it's expensive." Using a smartphone is thus a quick and effective way to reach thousands of people. Not only are the phone pictures comparable to the ones taken on medical equipment, the devices can also function as simple vision-testing charts, store patient records, and track the locations of patients via GPS for follow-up visits.

[Image: Flickr user Joel Penner]

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