British ophthalmologist Andrew Bastawrous has developed the Portable Eye Examination Kit (Peek), an mHealth app that aims to improve the lives of people battling with poor eyesight in low-resourced settings.

Bastawrous developed the idea for Peek while studying blindness in rural Africa as a solution to bypass the need for expensive equipment for eyesight testing.

“The main reason for most people not getting eye treatment is simply that they don’t access the services and that’s usually because the services are so far away from them or are unaffordable,” said Bastawrous. “If we can detect people with blindness beforehand, we have a much greater chance of increasing awareness and ensuring an appropriate treatment.”

The app replaces a static chart with letters that go from large to fine print by displaying a shrinking letter on a smartphone screen. Also by slipping on the Peek Retina attachable over the phone’s camera, the smartphone’s camera flash and auto-focus function allows ophthalmologists or trained care workers to examine the retina. According to the developers, the high image quality allows users to view cataracts clearly enough for treatment classification, detect signs of glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and signs of nerve disease.

Peek also enables images and patient information to be securely stored and shared for patient referrals or expert opinions.

A team from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine led by ophthalmologist and senior fellow at the Glasgow Centre for Ophthalmic Research, Iain Livingstone, who is also one of the founding partners of Peek Vision, recently conducted clinical trials using Peek in Kenya where 233 people’s eyesight was tested. Results indicated that the app was just as effective as traditional eye charts used by optometrists.

Peek Vision is currently developing an expansion for their app to include tests for colour blindness, as well as contrast tests to evaluate the difference between shades of light and dark that people can see.

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