News / Health

Doctors Prevent Blindness With 'Revolutionary' Phone App

Selah Hennessy
Since January hundreds of Kenyans have undergone eye tests, not in a clinic with a doctor, but on their own doorstep, using a smart-phone application.  The app uses a camera to scan the lens of the eye for cataracts, and its developers say it could save millions of people from blindness. 

Dr. Andrew Bastawrous from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine developed the new application along with a small team.

He is currently in Nakuru, Kenya, where he is testing the technology, and told VOA that it appears to be working.

“They are absolutely loving it.  They are all asking to have a go and have their vision tested.  So it is certainly very user friendly,” said Bastawrous.

So far about 2,000 Kenyans have been given eye tests.  The developers estimate about 10 percent of those had cataracts and needed treatment.

Stewart Jordan is an independent application designer who helped develop the app called PEEK, or Portable Eye Examination Kit.  He says the kit includes a clip-on camera, which works with the app to check glasses prescription, diagnose cataracts or examine the back of the eye for diseases, from glaucoma to diabetes.

In just a few seconds, he said, you can take a clear image of the back of the eye.  

“I can then take that image, capture it, e-mail it, and upload it to our back-end system.  People at Moorfield’s Eye Hospital can review it and anyone can send me feedback," he explained. "So if I was actually trying to diagnose a patient in the field, I could get remote assistance on exactly what conditions we were dealing with and advise on how to treat it.”

The team is testing PEEK on 5,000 Kenyans.  Jordan said the team is paying for the treatment of every patient with cataracts, including the cost of a driver to deliver the patient to the hospital, overnight accommodation and food. “We are talking about $40 on a cataract operation.  And that can literally take someone who cannot even tell if you are shining a torch in their eyes and give them 20/20 vision.  It is remarkable,” he added.

Jordan and Bastawrous said they developed the application to reach the “poorest of the poor.”

An estimated 39 million people around the world are blind, with 90 percent living in low-income countries where there is little or no access to eye specialists.

SightSavers is an international charity that works to combat blindness in developing countries. 

Program Development Advisor Imran Khan said giving eye examinations in poor or isolated regions can be a major obstacle.

“If we look at the supply side of the equation, there are just not enough trained doctors or nurses to go out into these rural communities, find these patients and bring them back to the base hospital," Khan said. "And if we look on the other side, the demand, a lot of the patients in these rural communities are not really aware of the benefits that these services can provide.”

But Khan said with new technology like PEEK, eye care should become much more accessible.

“By using means to go out into the communities and really use community health workers or people that we can train to go out and find these patients, it is a lot more effective,"  Khan said. "So it becomes more affordable and we increase access to care.”

Dr. Andrew Bastawrous is using PEEK alongside conventional eye testing gear to compare results.  He says the PEEK app results appear to be keeping up with his hospital equipment valued at well over $100,000 and his team of 15 trained personnel.

You May Like

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

With IS in Coalition Cross-Hairs, al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs