PEEK-a-Boo: A Mobile App that’s Easy on the Eyes

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PEEK2A team of ophthalmologists, engineers, business experts and software developers based at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine is developing a mobile app that is changing the way that eye exams can be conducted. Called Peek Vision, the group has developed a Portable Eye Examination Kit (PEEK), which consists of new innovative technology that allows health care workers to conduct eye exams regardless of location.

This invention is similar to the NetraG program, discussed here.

The goal is to focus on patients living in the Global South, specifically in rural and remote areas, who would typically not have access to this type of health care. Health workers can 0 use PEEK to ensure that patients are properly examined and can be given further treatment if necessary. Currently, the app can run tests to examine visual field, acuity, colour vision, contrast sensitivity, cataracts, and retinal imaging.

Simple eye tests are done using basic letters like in a doctor’s office. Patients are asked what way the letters are facing, and health care workers record answers by sliding their fingers across the touch-screen to mimic directions. Flashlights built in to the phone are used to take photos of patients eyes, which include the backside of the eye and the retinas. Patient records are then stored directly onto the phone, and can be easily shared with other health care workers or sent to labs for further testing.

Using smartphones is also helpful because patients in remote areas are geo-tagged using mapping systems, which allows their location to be recorded for any follow-up exams or treatments if needed. Patients are contacted via text message to schedule follow-ups.

PEEK1The Peek app is currently used on Android smartphones. It requires a small clip-on piece of hardware to help with magnification. The cost of properly equipping a smartphone is roughly £300 ($500), whereas typical equipment used in hospitals and clinics can cost £100,000 ($170,000). However, it is still being tested in a number of pilot projects, and is not currently available commercially. Peek Vision is currently conducting extensive testing before release.

Patients in over a hundred locations across Nakuru County, Kenya, are participating in Peek Vision’s trials. They are being tested by both professional equipment in hospitals and community health workers using the Peek app. This way, results can be compared to ensure that Peek’s diagnosis is both accurate and effective. Similar tests are being done in Scotland through clinics associated with one of their partners from the Glasgow Centre for Ophthalmic Research work.

Another pilot project is being conducted in 30 Kenyan schools in Kitale. Teachers use Peek software to help identify young children with vision problems. The idea is to find and diagnose any impairments at a young age to help stop further issues, and to help the children succeed in school.

For more information about Peek Vision, check out their website.

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Elizabeth DiCesare

Elizabeth DiCesare

Elizabeth is a writer currently based in Kitchener-Waterloo.

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