The Dr Stephanie Campbell episode

In the fifth episode of The OT  Podcast, we speak to optometrist and founder of Okko Health, Dr Stephanie Campbell

In episode five of The OT Podcast, we explore artificial intelligence (AI) and how it could change optometry in the future with optometrist, vision science researcher and founder of Okko Health, Dr Stephanie Campbell.

Established in 2015, Okko Health is a digital eye care start-up that aims to enable patients with chronic eye disease to self-monitor between appointments using an app on their smartphone designed to help them get treatment at the right moment when deterioration occurs.

On the smartphone app-based technology, Okko Health has developed a suite of vision assessment tools, including visual acuity, low contrasts, distortion and colour vision distortion. “We do that by making vision embedded video games, little puzzles, on the smartphone and we get people to touch what they can see,” Campbell shared.

Having graduated from Cardiff University in 2010, Campbell has practised in the community and the hospital environment as a specialist optometrist, as well as in industry and regulation. She has also completed a PhD in keratoconus in children with Downs syndrome.

Reflecting on her career journey to date, she tells OT: “When you follow bits of life and work that you are interested in, you end up in exciting places.”

It is following the people and parts of the profession that inspire her that led Campbell to establish Okko Health.

Working in a busy NHS hospital environment, Campbell was affected by patients when she felt there had been missed opportunities to intervene.

In a Ted Talk delivered by Campbell, she recalls one patient, Sarah, and how she felt she had failed her. It was the experiences with this patient, and others like her, that Campbell said, “was my drive to leave the hospital and go into technology.”

“I still feel a little bit guilty having left the majority of my patient-facing work, but I knew I had to do it,” she told OT, adding: “I knew that if we were going to develop this technology it was nearly a full-time endeavor. Building a team really took that, as did raising investment and grants, and all of the stuff that comes with setting up a start-up.”

Leaving full-time practice was “a critical move,” she said.

While Campbell admits that she still thinks about “quite a few patients quite often,” there was also a part of her that couldn’t continue having “some of the same conversations and some of the same guilt that we have missed opportunities to intervene.”

Today, what drives Campbell in Okko Health is the patient situations that she has experienced that told her things need to be done differently. “If we keep doing what we are doing we will get the same responses,” she said.

Her goal through the technology that Okko Health is developing is to move optometry from a reactive response to proactive one.

“Critically, I think that’s what we can do, shift eye care into being proactive, getting the right patients in the right place at the right time. And I think if we can ultimately get patients to see the right eye care professional just before they start having symptoms of eye disease then we can intervene early and we can protect that person’s vison, hopefully for the rest of their lives,” she shared.

So, when does this technology become AI? Campbell defines AI as automation, highlighting, “we already have a lot of that in the optical equipment and the software that is in the pieces of hardware that we use every day in optometry.”

She describes this using the relatable example of the non-contact tonometer, choosing when to puff the air out. “that’s automated, that has some degree of AI to know when everything is lined up,” she said.

Campbell acknowledges, however, that when you get into the nuts and bolts of AI, it is a sliding scale – from automation and rules-based systems through to self-learning models.

While that is the artificial side of AI, the intelligence element is that it is “the intelligent thing to do so we can use the clinicians time more wisely,” Campbell shared.

Play episode five: The Dr Stephanie Campbell episode

The OT Podcast

OT will release a new episode of The OT Podcast bimonthly, with episode six, featuring optometrist and SeeAbility clinical lead Lisa Donaldson, scheduled for release in September.

You can listen to The OT Podcast on our website, or via all the main podcast apps, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Castbox. Be sure to catch-up and listen to other episodes, featuring experts including Professor Nicola Logan, Ian Cameron, Keith Valentine and Dr Peter Frampton.

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