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Smartphone Advances Provide Mobile Eye Exams in Third World Countries

With everyone in the US abuzz about the new iPhone and Apple operating systems, other smartphone advancements are making an even bigger impact worldwide. One of the biggest causes of blindness around the world is due to untreated cataracts and uncorrected refractive errors. Because traditional exam equipment is immobile and very expensive, people in remote rural areas of third world countries rarely receive eye exams or eye care. This is now beginning to change, however, due to advancements with the smartphone and smartphone applications (apps).

A new smartphone app called Peek is revolutionizing the way eye exams are provided in these countries. Using a smartphone and an external clip-on device, Peek can check for cataracts, perform simple vision tests and scan the retina for disease, allowing conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy to be diagnosed.

Minimal training is required to operate Peek as the information is gathered and then sent to experts around the world for diagnosis. In addition, the GPS data the smartphone and app gather is also very helpful because this information allows for follow-ups and helps other health organizations better target mass treatment campaigns.

Ophthalmologist Thomas Henderson, M.D. offered, “This iPhone application represents a new pathway to bring improved eye care to many people throughout the world. In the United States, I foresee its potential use in emergency room consultations with a physician who is not on site.”

Peek is currently being tested in Kenya, and their team will publish results at the end of their trials in early 2014.