Researchers examine viability of smartphone tool for vision diagnosis

Smartphone-based ophthalmoscopy may represent the start of a new wave of digital technology for vision diagnosis, specifically among patients with glaucoma.

A new study comparing a smartphone-based ophthalmoscope, the D-EYE Retinal imaging system, states the system not only performs on par with the traditional slit-lamp diagnostic approach, it provides two significant new benefits: the ability to snap an image and the ability to share the image and data with conferring care providers.

“Smartphone ophthalmoscopy showed substantial agreement with slit-lamp examination for the estimation of the Vertical Cup-to-Disc Ratio," said the authors of the study, published in the Journal of Glaucoma. "The ubiquitous diffusion of the smartphones, together with their connectivity and portability features, enables an extensive benefit for this technology to be used in glaucoma screening, especially in low-resource settings."

The findings illustrate that a mobile device approach could provide an easier, more concise and faster detection of glaucoma.

“Millions of doctors own a portable ophthalmoscope, which was first introduced about 150-plus years ago,” D-EYE CEO Richard Sill told FierceMobileHealthcare via email. "But many physicians find the portable ophthalmoscope difficult and uncomfortable to use as it is not easy to quickly observe the optic disc while their faces are practically touching their patients. The issues then lead to underutilization which results in fewer vision issues being detected.

Sill called image capture is a tremendous benefit, as it allows for better timestamping in long-term monitoring situations, and also shares the image for professional consultation. Those features, he said, could make a big dent in reducing vision loss, which impacts 300 million worldwide.

“There just aren't enough ophthalmologists or optometrists around the world to serve our growing and aging, population," he said.

Another study published this month in the Journal of Hypertension notes the validity of D-EYE use in emergency department settings compared to traditional ocular fundus (FO) examination, which is infrequently and poorly performed. The study reports the device detected a significant number of abnormal FO and cites the reliability as “superior” compared to traditional fundoscopy.

The smartphone approach, Sill said, also solves hurdles with today’s sophisticated diagnostic tools, which he called bulky and expensive.

“The D-EYE/smartphone combination is mobile and very affordable, so more people can be screened and make it quick and easy for any healthcare professional to examine and image the back of the eye. With more healthcare professionals around the world examining the back of the eye, we have a great opportunity to reduce global vision loss.”