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Researchers at the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) are working in conjunction with Queensland Health and the Indigenous and Remote Eye Health Service (IRIS) in the Torres Strait Islands to set up a remote eye screening service, providing specialist eye care to patients in their own communities.
The project, the Tele-eye care trial utilises local clinicians to conduct routine 15 minute retinal screenings, often as part of scheduled health clinic visits. Patient's retinal images and health data is then sent to an ophthalmologist via satellite broadband, the Remote-i. This technology will enable ophthalmologists to screen up to 60 retinal images per week, whereas previously, ophthalmologists would only be able to fit in a limited number of eye screenings and surgeries when they visited remote communities.
Preliminary results from a review of data collected at one location showed that only three out of 82 patients screened to that date had a sight-threatening condition and required an immediate referral. Previously, those other 79 patients not requiring referrals may have held up the queue while the specialist was visiting the remote community. This project will enable those who need immediate treatment or attention to be first in line.
By June 2014 the Tele-eye care trial will have screened 900 patients in remote WA and Qld. In addition to streamlining health care processes, the trial is collecting a lot of data, which will additionally contribute to a study of blood vessel patterns in retinas. Algorithms will then be designed to automatically detect particular eye diseases, which will aid diagnosis in routine screenings.