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Smartphone screening system improves eye care access in Kenya

A study involving 128,000 people in Trans Nzoia County has highlighted the potential of technology in improving eye care access

Peek Vision in Kenya
Peek Vision

New research published in The Lancet Digital Health has examined the use of a smartphone-based screening and referral system to improve access to eye care in Trans Nzoia County, Kenya.

The Peek Community Eye Health (CEH) system involved vision screening, SMS reminders for follow up appointments and real-time reporting that shows who is accessing follow-up care and treatment.

The system included a decision-guiding app which enabled community volunteers to accurately identify patients in need of referral to eye services.

More than 128,000 people across 36 community unit clusters were seen either through the Peek CEH system (the intervention) or the standard approach of outreach clinics (the control group).

Within the intervention group, volunteers delivered door-to-door screening using the decision-guiding app. If an issue was detected, the patient was referred for triage assessment and received regular SMS reminders about their hospital appointment.

More than double the number of people with eye problems in the intervention group attended hospital appointments compared to those with eye problems in the control group.

Triage appointment attendance was also greater in the intervention group compared to the control group.

Study author, Dr Hillary Rono, shared that his experience as an ophthalmologist in rural Kenya had illustrated the need for innovation to improve access to eye care.

“Our findings show the great potential of using the Peek Community Eye Health system to help ensure that limited health resources are effectively maximised,” he said.

The study was carried out by researchers from the International Centre for Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Kitale County Hospital, the University of Nairobi, and Peek Vision.