Mobile adaptor promises faster, cheaper eye health diagnostics

By Judy Mottl

A new mobile adapter providing a quick, simple and low-cost method in optical care imaging could make today's smartphone a common diagnostic tool for eye healthcare professionals.

A report in the March 2014 Journal of Mobile Technology reveals the new adapter, which can be easily connected to a smartphone, eliminates the need of the slitlamp technology now used in documenting ocular pathology and imaging of the anterior segment of the eye.

"Think Instagram for the eye," said one of the developers, Robert Chang, M.D., in an announcement.

The report states the adapter provides "useful clinical information regarding the appearance of the lids and lashes, the clarity of the cornea, the state of the conjunctiva, the shape of the pupil and health of the iris and the presence or absence of a hyphema or hypopyon," and can be used in emergency triage and teleophthalmology in various settings.

The mobile optical tech advancement comes as healthcare providers, physicians and payers are seeking ways to save costs using emerging technologies and mobile diagnostic tools.

According to the announcement, the initial adapters will be available for purchase for research purposes only while the team seeks guidance from the Food and Drug Administration. The researchers said the production cost is under $90 but the goal is to make it even lower in the future.

Current teleophthalmology smartphone-based devices are limited due to optics, magnification and lighting control for capturing key details, states the report.

"While various adapters have been designed to attach a smartphone to a slitlamp to obtain clinically useful photos, we sought a way for practitioners to achieve similar photos using only their existing smartphones with minimal additional hardware."

The smartphone adapter features low-cost macrolens, LED external light source and a universal attachment system at a materials cost of $15, according to the report.

Such capability would allow triage teams in emergency settings and in disaster response scenarios to conduct optical exams and share the images with an ophthalmologist at a hospital or doctor's office.

"Our ultimate goal is for this system to be usable by healthcare staff with minimal specialized training to remotely capture and share high quality anterior segment images in order to enhance healthcare provider communication," the report's authors write.

Instagram may be a popular medium for consumers to share photos with friends and family, but similarly, an app for mobile devices is now enabling physicians to share medical images the same way. The app, called Figure 1, allows doctors to share interesting photos of medical conditions and in the process is building a valuable crowdsourced image library for healthcare professionals. 

For more information:
- read the Journal of Mobile Technology report
- read the announcement