An Australian indigenous woman smiles at the camera.

CSIRO is using telehealth technologies to reduce preventable blindness in rural and remote areas of Australia.

Bringing specialist eye care to rural and remote communities

CSIRO aims to reduce preventable blindness with an inexpensive telehealth system that sends patients’ eye images over a broadband connection to city specialists.

  • 28 July 2011 | Updated 14 October 2011

Left undiagnosed and untreated, eye conditions such as glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy can lead to vision loss or total blindness.

Improving access to regular eye screening in regional and remote areas of Australia is important because, for people living in these areas, losing some or all of their eyesight can severely restrict mobility, and this has flow-on effects to overall health and quality of life.

Current activities

Through the Australian e-Health Research Centre, CSIRO’s experts in information and communication technologies (ICT) are developing a low cost, high quality eye screening system that gets around the problem of specialists travelling to the bush or patients trekking to the city.

The diagnosis of many eye diseases begins with visual examination of the retina, typically involving large, expensive equipment operated by a specialist medical practitioner. 

CSIRO is building on earlier research by project leader Dr Yogesan (Yogi) Kanagasingam and making use of an inexpensive, easy to use camera (the EyeScan) to capture images of the retina.

The aim is for primary healthcare practitioners in remote areas to photograph the eyes of their patients then send the images over a broadband connection to specialists in the city.

CSIRO aims to bring specialist eye care to the doorstep of people in rural and remote communities.

CSIRO researchers are developing the following technologies:

  • a web-based system that captures images from the EyeScan device and sends them to a central server
  • an offline system for data collection in areas with no immediate Internet connection
  • an automated system to analyse captured images and support decision making by screening staff and medical specialists
  • security and encryption techniques for transmission of patient data.

Outcomes

Potential outcomes from this project include:

  • reducing the incidence of preventable blindness
  • improving patient health outcomes and quality of life
  • reducing expensive trips to the city for patients
  • lowering health costs, as early intervention efforts are generally less expensive than later treatments
  • decreasing pressure on limited specialist resources.

Partners

CSIRO is working closely with consultant ophthalmologists as well as the following organisations:

  • Port Hedland hospital
  • Western Australia (WA) Department of Health
  • WA Country Health Services.

This research is supported by funding from the Pilbara Development Commission’s Royalties for Regions program.

CSIRO seeks strategic partners to take this technology across Australia.

Achievements

This project won the e-health category of the 2011 Western Australian iAwards.

Find out about Award-winning healthcare technology overcomes the tyranny of distance.

AEHRC logo. The Australian e-Health Research Centre is a joint venture between CSIRO and the Queensland Government.