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This Simple Tablet-Based Eye Test Could Help Cure A Lot More Blindness

Ceeable makes visual health easier to monitor at home or by doctors who can’t afford expensive equipment.

Mobile technology has the potential to slash the cost of medical care, spreading access to millions of people around the world. A host of procedures that once needed expensive equipment–from blood tests to ultrasounds–can now be performed with phones and mobile device attachments, and more categories are coming.

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Ceeable‘s tablet-based eye-test is a case in point. It replaces a clinical machine that normally costs between $25,000 and $35,000 and offers a similar level of accuracy, according to peer-reviewed research. It could help diagnose a greater number of people with serious retinal conditions like macular degeneration and glaucoma, and save a lot of money doing it.

“The standard of care today is a machine that’s complex and that [many] patients don’t like. It feels confining and repetitive,” says Ceeable’s CEO and cofounder Chris Adams. “There are a number of clinics who can’t afford the space or the clinicians, or the cost of the machine. Being able to screen people in three to five minutes on a tablet is an advantage to the patient.”

Ceeable’s test is an electronic version of the standard Amsler Grid, where patients are asked which parts of a chart are distorted. Patients are set up between 15 and 17 inches in front of a tablet, and then told to trace areas with their fingers, indicating areas that are blurred. Then, Ceeable lowers the contrast level for a series of further tests, eventually generating a “3-D topographical contour map” of each eye.

Based in Massachusetts, Ceeable launched its service this October and has customers in Mexico and Central America. It hopes to get FDA approval to sell into the U.S. in 2016, first with a service for clinics and then an at-home version as well. Adams hopes people will use the test to monitor previously-diagnosed conditions remotely, saving the need for clinical visits. “It’s for progression monitoring. You can see how your eyes and retina have changed over time,” he says.

Ceeable is a finalist in this year’s Hitlab World Cup, a challenge for digital health entrepreneurs. We covered some other digital eye-care technology here and here.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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