Nearly 1 billion people live with completely avoidable vision loss. Providing access to new sight-saving technologies in low- and middle-income countries is the key to ensuring high-quality eye care for everyone.
Around the world, nearly 1 billion people live with completely avoidable vision loss. The vast majority live in low- and middle-income countries, where eye care is often hard to come by and the number of people needing eye care has long outpaced the number of trained ophthalmologists. The most sustainable solution to this challenge is to ensure that eye care professionals everywhere have access to quality training so that they can care for patients in their communities.
This is a complex problem, but we know one thing that will get us closer to solving it: technology.
As we have seen over the last few years, technology is a way to bring people together when travelling is not an option. However, leveraging technology to unite people far and wide is not a concept born from the pandemic.
Orbis International, a global eye care nonprofit, had the innovative idea 40 years ago to combine the latest in aviation and eye care technologies to create the iconic Flying Eye Hospital — a fully accredited teaching hospital on a plane — to take training to eye care teams in areas that often don’t have access to it. When the Flying Eye Hospital visits another country, training participants can board the plane and learn using the latest technology — like virtual reality, artificial eyes, and life-like manikins – without having to leave their community.
Telemedicine, simulation training, and artificial intelligence (AI) are some of the latest technologies that have the potential to revolutionize eye health in the coming years, but only if all populations can benefit from these developments.
One example of revolutionary technology that is free and available to all eye care professionals around the globe is Cybersight, a telemedicine platform. On Cybersight, any eye care professional with an internet connection can access training activities, attend live lectures and surgeries, and consult with Orbis volunteer faculty.
An AI tool on Cybersight can detect abnormalities often associated with common eye diseases in mere seconds by analyzing images of the back of the eye. This tool can aid eye care professionals in ensuring more of their patients are diagnosed early, when vision loss is easier to prevent. For patients who travel a great distance to have their exam, quick results can make all the difference in whether they get follow-up care. Often, the price point of these technologies keep them out of reach of professionals in low- to middle-income countries, which are the areas that need them most. That is why Cybersight is free for all eye care teams.
A human focus
These technologies really do have the power to not only train eye care professionals, but to help patients and change lives — like that of Rose, a four-year-old girl from a nomadic family in Mongolia.
Rose was struggling with pain in her eye and increasingly poor vision. She couldn’t play or learn the way she wanted to. Unfortunately, access to high-quality, affordable eye care in Mongolia is limited, and there is no comprehensive framework to treat children’s eye disease.
When Rose visited a hospital in Mongolia, she was seen by Dr. Battsetseg, who had trained on the Flying Eye Hospital and used Cybersight. When Dr. Battsetseg needed more expert advice on Rose’s complicated case, she logged on to Cybersight and contacted Dr. Ron Pelton, a volunteer faculty member. With his advice, Dr. Battsetseg properly diagnosed Rose and performed a successful surgery.
Innovations in technology are improving eye care at a rapid pace, but there is so much more that must be done. You can make a difference for others like Rose by visiting orbis.org to make a donation and help change the way the world sees.