USYD awards innovation grant to SSI for 'Eye Clinic In Your Pocket' app

11 September 2015

The University of Sydney has awarded an Education Innovation Grant to the Save Sight Institute to implement a unique, interactive and portable eye examination tool.

Developed by Dr Con Petsoglou and Christine Brickenstein, the project will not only enhance the learning outcomes for postgraduate medical students who specialise in ophthalmology, but will create a free, universally-available, constantly updated tool for health care providers everywhere.

According to Dr Petsoglou "Many health professionals are required to examine the eyes of a patient. This includes not only those in the eye health field, such as ophthalmologists, optometrists and orthoptists, but also general practitioners, neurologists, nurses and allied health professionals. To do this properly requires specialised tools, instruments, equipment and knowledge. Frustratingly, these are often not available for a variety of reasons."

The 'Eye Clinic In Your Pocket' app will enable health care providers to conduct a number of specific tests to examine the patient's visual system. It will enable users to replace expensive or frequently unavailable equipment with a single validated app. It will also include practical instructions on how to perform the tests and high quality images and videos to assist in the interpretation of results.

"Unfortunately, not all medical graduates are exposed to the essentials of ophthalmology" said Dr Petsoglou "and without these skills they cannot competently and correctly examine the eye. In a recent USA survey only 30% of medical schools included a formal ophthalmology rotation. This app will support health providers everywhere to ensure better eye care."

The 'Eye Clinic In Your Pocket' app will be developed and validated by postgraduate students under the supervision of of the Save Sight Institute's Discipline of Clinical Ophthalmology academics and clinicians. It will be constantly maintained as a core part of the Practical Ophthalmic Science unit within the Master of Medicine or Graduate Diploma of Medicine in Ophthalmic Science programmes.

According to programme coordinator Ms Christine Brickenstein "Although there are a number of free and low cost apps presently available, none of these have been validated and they all contain a limited range of tools. There are presently no comparable apps with the unique practical tools that the 'Eye Clinic In Your Pocket' will feature."

Anticipated for launch mid-2016, the innovative app will consist of a number of eye examination modules, each broken down into three key areas: Tests, Instructions, Images. The following tools are planned for development:

1. Visual acuity testing tool: eye charts, children's charts, near and distance;
2. Macular tests: Amsler grid, near vision testing (macular function), black on white, white on black, feature to allow recording of abnormalities on-screen;
3. Optokinetic nystagmus tool: moving stripes of different width and velocity;
4. Colour vision testing tool: to test colour vision with up to ten images;
5. Contrast sensitivity testing tool: Pelli-Robson type circles, letters or with a sliding scale to adjust contrast level;
6. Pupil testing tool: utilising torch smartphone function and alternating light from screen to test pupils for abnormalities;
7. Childhood eye tests: animations (stripes or flies), 100s and 1000s;
8. Keratometry: illuminated rings with image capture and simple analysis;
9. Clinical image reference set: 20-30 images of cases;
10. Ophthalmic instrument reference and troubleshooting tool: indirect and direct ophthalmoscope, slit lamp and keratometer.

This unique initiative will have a positive impact on international eye health, and illustrates the Discipline of Clinical Ophthalmology's novel approach to education and the practical application of knowledge to maximise social impact.
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