Eye tests could soon be carried out from the comfort of the home thanks to a collaborative project involving Birmingham Children’s Hospital that uses new innovative technology.
Working closely with Mr Iain Livingstone from NHS Forth Valley, Miss Sally Painter, a Consultant within the Children’s Hospital specialist Eye Department, has developed the potentially transformational approach that could reduce the need for hospital appointments.
The collaboration began at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when appointments for many eye tests were cancelled while people stayed at home to fight the spread of the virus.
Providing such tests at the rate required proved impossible but, to address the issue, Miss Painter and Mr Livingstone came together to develop a vision test that offered the opportunity for a child’s vision to be tested at home.
The new technology was created and allowed children to have their vision tested by a clinician, from home, via a video link.
Around 150 children’s vision tests have taken place as part of the study in Birmingham and Scotland. The findings to date have been overwhelmingly positive.
Miss Painter said: “This project began at the beginning of the first lockdown last spring when, overnight, we had to significantly reduce the number of children coming into hospital for appointments. I started thinking of ways to enable us to test children’s vision from home. I spoke with Mr Livingstone who I knew had been involved in other projects using apps and mobile technology.
“The results so far have been really promising. The new tests and video consultations have allowed us to carry on testing children’s vision from home and, most importantly, the test results have been reliable.”
The prototype idea was pitched by Mr Livingstone to the UKRI (UK Research and Innovation) and was part of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by NHS Scotland. Now, two companies have now been chosen to further research the best ways for health professionals to obtain results from mobile testing.
“Eye testing at home could reduce the frequency of hospital-based eye appointments for children, improve waiting times and reduce the need for parents to take their children out of school for hospital appointments,” said Miss Painter. “We are really excited to see the outcome of the SBRI competition and put our prototype idea into practice and improve eye care for our local children”.