CHENNAI: A large number of conditions such as congenital blindness and diabetic retinopathy can now be diagnosed without expensive diagnostic aids. It can be done with a simple imaging system that works with your average high-end smartphone, after which the images are WhatsApped to an optometrist for a quick consult.
A large portion of India’s preventable blindness burden is because people don’t get diagnosed or treated on time. “We were shocked to find that some patients were completely blind and they don’t know it,” said diabetologist Dr V Mohan.
So far, a hundred of these mini telescope like devices called Fundus on Phone have been sold to clinics across the country, but the true potential of this device is largely untapped, according to its developer Dr Anand Sivaraman of Remedies Innovative Solutions.
“Fundus on Phone was developed indigenously in 2010 and it’s built in such a way that it can be carried anywhere easily, so there will be plenty of rural applications here. All it needs is a smartphone mounted on it and practically anybody can capture images of the patients eye for diagnosis,” he said. After devices like Peek made their debut, using smartphones to try and diagnose a variety of eye conditions are in vogue. But just how effective these methods are have never been scientifically verified until researchers at the Madras Diabetes Research Foundation (MDRF) decided to put the device called the Fundus on Phone to the test. “So, we did a study on 301 patients using this technique and what we found was that the images produced were stunningly effective in diagnosing retinopathy. The effectiveness was as high as 94 percent which is amazing because in patients of this nature anything over 70 percent is acceptable,” said Dr R M Anjana, diabetologist and researcher.
When compared to the Carl Zeiss Mydiatric Retinal Camera, which is the gold standard for optical diagnosis, the images were a lot less high res but they were still easy enough to read a good diagnosis from.
All of Dr Mohan’s centres will have one of these devices and ordinary technicians will man these stations to ensure the diabetics who troop through aren’t in the 18 percent slab that develops retinopathy.