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Smartphone app helps eye patients monitor vision from a distance

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

The Home Vision Monitor is specially designed for people with diseases affecting the macula, including neovascular age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetes, and allows patients to continue to monitor their vision while at home comfortably.

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, different from the other.

Patients are asked to test their own vision at least twice a week by selecting the different shapes, with the results sent directly from the app to their hospital doctor. If both tests show deterioration or discrepancy in the health of the patient’s eye, an alert is automatically sent to their doctor.

This allows the clinician to decide on the right course of action, allowing them to intervene at an early stage of disease progression and give patients the opportunity for a better outcome.

The hospital conducted a survey of users and found that 93 percent of patients found the app to be user-friendly.

Meanwhile, 70 percent claimed it provided them with reassurance knowing that their vision is being monitored regularly during the coronavirus pandemic. Under normal circumstances, patients would attend in-person appointments every four to 12 weeks to check for changes in vision.

“Exciting new digital technologies, such as Home Vision Monitor, will further enable our patients to actively contribute to the management of their condition, working with their clinicians to achieve the best possible results,” said ophthalmic consultant Konstantinos Balaskas.

“Placing such devices in the hands of patients will improve patient health outcomes as well as reduce the capacity pressure of hospital eye departments.” Jill Hopkins, global head of ophthalmology at the healthcare company Roche, which helped develop the app, said:

“Supporting such a high-risk group is essential in these extraordinary times. By testing patients’ eyesight more often at home, the app can eliminate unnecessary hospital visits and escalate urgent cases where necessary. “

We believe 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 last July showed that an AI tool performs very accurately in detecting serious eye conditions in patients with diabetes, potentially cutting the human workload associated with this process in half.