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Smartphone app helps eye patients monitor vision remotely

Image credit: Lane Erickson/Dreamstime

The UK’s leading eye hospital has piloted a smartphone-based app that allows patients to remotely test and monitor changes in their vision at home during lockdown.

Designed specifically for people with diseases that affect the macula, including neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetes, Home Vision Monitor ensures patients can continue to have their vision monitored, whilst in the comfort of their home. It is currently being tested by more than 350 patients at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London.

The app uses a 'shape discrimination' test where multiple shapes are displayed on a screen with one shape, the target shape, being different from the others. Patients are asked to test their own vision at least twice a week, by selecting the different shapes, with results sent directly and instantly from the app to their clinician at the hospital. 

If both tests show any deterioration or discrepancies in the patient’s eye health, an alert is automatically triggered to their clinician. This enables the clinician to decide on the correct course of action, helping them intervene at an early stage of disease progression and providing patients with the possibility of a better outcome.

The hospital conducted a survey on the users and found that 93 per cent of patients found the app easy to use. Meanwhile, 70 per cent claimed it offered them reassurance to know their vision is being monitored regularly during the coronavirus pandemic. In normal circumstances, patients would attend in-person appointments every four to 12 weeks to check for any changes in vision. 

“Exciting new digital technologies, such as Home Vision Monitor, will further empower our patients to actively contribute to the management of their condition, in partnership with their clinicians to achieve the best possible outcomes,” said consultant ophthalmic surgeon Konstantinos Balaskas. “Placing such tools in the hands of patients will both improve health outcomes for patients and reduce the capacity pressures of hospital-based eye departments.”

Jill Hopkins, global head of ophthalmology at healthcare firm Roche, which helped develop the app, said: “Supporting such a high-risk group is essential during these extraordinary times. By testing patients’ vision more frequently and at home, the app may eliminate unnecessary hospital visits and escalate urgent cases where needed.

“We believe that solutions such as these can continue to support patients and healthcare professionals beyond Covid-19 and contribute to the generation of real-world evidence to identify progression trends in AMD,” she added. 

A large-scale study conducted in July last year found that an AI tool performs very accurately when detecting serious eye disease among patients with diabetes, potentially halving the human workload associated with this process.

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