Innovative App First Step On Way To Virtual Glaucoma Clinics

Press Release | Moorfields Eye Hospital | April 18, 2013

“Virtual clinics are a way of improving living with glaucoma by reducing the patient′s need for regular travel” - Moorfields Eye Hospital has worked with core tech partners to develop a prototype it says could revolutionise the treatment of one of the most common eye diseases

[London, UK / Implementations] - Moorfields Eye Hospital has released an iPad based app it says could be the basis of ‘virtual glaucoma clinics′. The system has been developed by Moorfields′ ‘OpenEyes′ team, working with suppliers Charing Systems and Black Pear software. It links iPads in remote community clinics to enable the latter′s iRIS app to capture metrics associated with glaucoma assessments. That data is then sent to Moorfields patient record system, from where a specialist consultant can diagnose glaucoma.

The partners see their work as enabling the running of virtual glaucoma clinics which potentially can save patients trips to hospital and also free up glaucoma specialists′ time. “Virtual clinics are a way of improving living with glaucoma by reducing the patient′s need for regular travel to a central hospital,” says Consultant Ophthalmologist and head of the OpenEyes team at Moorfields, Bill Aylward.

Aylward adds that that can free up more of the consultant′s time to concentrate on treating the patient′s condition.

Need for such clinics ‘clear for years′

Glaucoma is a chronic condition of the eye characterised by raised intraocular pressure and progressive damage to the optic nerve and is one of the major causes of visual loss in the UK. Treatment involves regular examinations for patients, typically every four to six months, to ensure that their treatment (usually eye drops) remains effective in preventing further loss of vision. 

The trouble is that means frequent visits to hospital glaucoma units for examinations, which can be very inconvenient for patients and also mean high workloads for clinics. Treatment is also based on the need for expert analysis of small sets of clinical data, looking for changes over time and/or relative to individualised standards and very precise measurements.

The need for ‘virtual′ clinics to help support hospitals, say practitioners, has been clear for many years - but the technology required to deliver them has previously been lacking.  This could be an answer – though the partners all stress this is at the prototype stage. The next stage could be setting up a series of virtual clinics making use of the tablet software in peripheral centres, with decision-making being carried out by experienced consultants at Moorfields.

Moorfields is one of the world′s leading eye hospitals, providing expertise in clinical care, research and education, providing excellence in eye care for more than 200 years and was one of the first NHS organisations to achieve Foundation Trust status in 2004.

Development of the app was funded by a £75,000 award from NHS Connecting for Health‘s Interoperability Toolkit Information Sharing Challenge Fund.