The challenge: Access to eye screening is needed in remote communities

Left undiagnosed and untreated, eye conditions such as diabetic retinopathy can lead to vision loss or total blindness. For patients suffering from these diseases, losing some or all of their eyesight can severely restrict mobility which has flow-on effects to their overall health and quality of life.

In regional and remote areas of Australia, patients currently have little or no access to regular eye screening. Indigenous Australians and the aged are most at risk from these eye conditions and there is a real need for screening programs which can help detect these diseases early.

Our response: We’ve developed new low-cost screening technology

We have developed a low-cost remote telehealth system called Remote-I to screen people at risk of eye disease. This award winning technology was developed with funding from the Pilbara Development Corporation with Royalties to the Regions program.

Remote-I is used to capture full high-resolution images of a patient’s retina with a special low-cost camera. The encrypted images are then securely forwarded to a city-based ophthalmologist via a broadband connection where they are examined, overcoming the need for patients to travel for a live consultation.

Remote-I’s built-in comparisons for various eye diseases can also help local care providers identify people in need of urgent treatment.

Sight saving science for Western Australia.

Transcript

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The results: Delivering telehealth systems across Australia

We were awarded a $1.9 million grant by the Australian Government’s Department of Health and Ageing to trial Remote-I in three regional and remote locations across Australia.

Working with partners including Western Australian (WA) Health, WA Country Health Service and the Indigenous and Remote Eye Health Service (IRIS) of Australian Society of Ophthalmologists, the study was undertaken over 12 months and involved 900 patients, with 300 patients participating at each trial location.

The research project was one of the first to investigate the practical delivery of health services using telecommunications (telehealth) into rural areas in Australia.

We are now assessing the clinical outcomes as well as the technical performance of these services over satellite broadband. This will contribute some of the first evidence from Australia to demonstrate how telehealth systems, such as Remote-I, can provide low-cost health services to those most at need, while improving patient care and access to health services for indigenous and older Australians.

After achieving such successful results in Australia, CSIRO has licensed Remote-I to a Silicon Valley spin-off TeleMedC, which plan to take the technology to the US and world market as part of its ‘EyeScan’ diagnostic solution.