Two companies have now been selected to carry out further research on the best ways for health professionals to carry out testing and remotely check results.
If successful, it’s believed it could considerably reduce waiting lists, ease pressure on clinic space, limit hospital contacts during the pandemic – and bring the potential for home tests to be carried out by parents and carers.
The project is being led by Dr Iain Livingstone, NHS Forth Valley consultant ophthalmologist.
He explained. “This is an opportunity for patients, carers and parents to be involved in the development of a new at-home vision test, so the end result works for everyone.
“Amblyopia - lazy eye - clinics represent more routine business and the Covid-19 pandemic has inevitably resulted in delays in monitoring and interventions such as spectacle correction and patching.”“In collaboration with NHS Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital, we are now entering phase two of a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) evaluating digital tools for remote visual testing.
Before the pandemic, the health authority saw approximately 104 new paediatric patients and 809 paediatric return patients per month.
That capacity has been cut by approximately one third, and success in home testing could transform vision testing and ensure eye problems are detected easier and faster in order to prevent sight loss.
Added Dr Livingstone: “Results from our pilot studies have shown promising results, indicating that remote live testing gives us results we can trust. With high-resolution screens in almost all houses, it becomes possible to bring the clinic to the home.”
The home testing research is part of the SBRI competition funded by NHS Scotland.
Successful applicants receive 100% funding and have access to advice from NHS Forth Valley, NHS Ayrshire and Arran, NHS Fife and NHS Highland.
The two companies selected to go forward from the initial four have been awarded up to £40,000 each and will develop a prototype and undertake testing for up to nine months in the NHS Test Bed before being expected to develop their solution commercially.