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How Smartphone Apps Help Low-Income Communities

People who don’t have in-person access to an eye doctor may go years without getting their eyes examined. Now, thanks to smartphone technology, people in low-resource communities or who find it difficult to visit their eye doctor for other reasons can now have access to certain eye exams.

Even if a person doesn’t own a smartphone, volunteers or other people in their community can conduct a simple vision screening test via a phone app. If the app identifies problems, it could signal the need for an in-person eye exam.

Vision Problems Are Not Being Checked

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 2.2 billion people globally have a near or distance vision impairment, with rates of unaddressed near vision impairment at greater than 80% in western, eastern and central subregions of Sub-Saharan Africa.

In the United States, only 13% of those experiencing visual symptoms, ranging from poor night vision and blurry vision to red eyes and double vision, visited their eye doctor for an eye exam and treatment.

How Can We Get People to Undergo Annual Eye Exams?

According to a study published in the Lancet Digital Health, using smartphones for eye screening and referrals could triple the number of people seeking primary care for eye disorders and boost the uptake of hospital services in low-resource settings.

This Lancet study, conducted in Kenya, demonstrates how smartphone-based screening allows non-expert community volunteers to visit homes and conduct eye exams, freeing up capacity among specialized eye care services.

While smartphone apps aren’t a substitute for a comprehensive eye exam by an eye doctor, they certainly can help. They may assist in managing ongoing eye conditions and notify the patient you when a doctor’s help is required.

By eliminating an initial visit to the eye doctor, patients can get their eyes checked from the comfort of their own home. Only if an eye problem is detected will they need to go visit the eye doctor.

This isn’t to say that people should not go to their eye doctor, but if for some reason it’s financially difficult to go on an annual basis, or they don’t have direct access to an eye doctor, a smartphone app is a great solution.

To learn more about smartphone apps that conduct vision screening tests, contact Child & Family Eye Care in The Woodlands today.

At Child & Family Eye Care, we put your family’s needs first. Talk to us about how we can help you maintain healthy vision. Call us today: 281-363-4362 or book an appointment online to see one of our The Woodlands eye doctors.

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Q&A

What can an eye exam app do?

Vision screening apps allow you to measure your visual acuity using your smartphone and help determine whether you need an in-person exam by an eye doctor. The app may measure your lens power, test for color perception and vision distortions, and monitor possible vision changes related to eye conditions and diseases like macular degeneration. It may even locate an eye care provider nearby and enable you to book an appointment.

What can in-person eye exams detect?

A comprehensive eye exam can assess your vision and diagnose eye disease. Eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and macular degeneration, can go undetected for years because their symptoms may not become apparent until the condition is at a more advanced stage. Unfortunately, by then it may be too late to prevent irreversible vision loss and even blindness.