Opticians in India are using video conference facilities to treat over six times more patients each year, according to Voice of America.
Eight vision centres have opened across the Theni district in the past six years. They are run by an opthalmic assistant who gives full eye examinations, carries out diagnostic tests, treats simple ailments and prescribes glasses. Thanks to a wi-fi network, a doctor over 150 kilometres away will use telepresence to give the final instructions.
The World Health Organisation reports that there are 45 million blind people who live in India. That amounts to a third of the world’s blind population. The majority of causes are cataracts and diabetes which can be treated. The WHO has pledge to eliminate avoidable blindness by ten years.
Students at the University of California Berkeley helped to design the video towers which connect the hospital to the eye clinics. After the initially high installation cost of over $2,000, it’s a relatively inexpensive system to run.
Dr P Namperumalsamy, chairman of Aravind Eye Hospital, said that video treatment is essential because there are so few doctors in India. He told Voice of America: “You may say that you’re not touching the patient, you’re not talking to the patient, but it’s all the more better. If left alone, what they will do is put native medicines or some unwanted medicines [in their eyes] and spoil their eyes. This is better than that, and we can advise them of the proper medicine for treatment.”
Before the introduction of ‘telemedicine’ doctors in mobile eye camps would have administered day long screenings to roughly 750 patients a year. Now the same doctor can treat an average of 5,000 per centre, per year.