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New eye test on smartphone is as accurate as paper test

The Peek series of smartphone apps were shown to be accurate 90 percent of the time, leading researchers to hope this can help people with vision problems in rural areas around the world.

By Stephen Feller
New eye test on smartphone is as accurate as paper test
Researchers have found that a series of smartphone app eye tests is more than 90 percent as accurate as traditional paper and lightbox tests in doctor's offices. Photo: Ikonoklast Fotografie/Shutterstock

LONDON, May 28 (UPI) -- A smartphone app was used to perform vision tests as accurately as paper tests and illuminated vision boxes during a study in rural Kenya.

Tests carried out in patients' homes using the Portable Eye Examination Kit, or Peek, were shown to be more than 90 percent accurate when compared to the results of traditional tests done in doctor's offices, according to a field test study.

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"In this study we aimed to develop and validate a smartphone-based visual acuity test for eyesight which would work in challenging circumstances, such as rural Africa, but also provide reliable enough results to use in routine clinical practice in well-established healthcare systems," said Dr. Andrew Bastawrous, Lecturer in International Eye Health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, in a press release.

Peek consists of a series of apps and a piece of hardware called Peek Retina. For this study, the app Peek Acuity was used. The app features a tumbling letter "E" and requires patients to indicate on the phone what direction the legs of the letter are pointing.

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The study included 233 Kenyan adult men and women. The creators of Peek are now testing it using a wide range of smartphones and operating systems, including a plan to use the apps for vision tests on 20,000 schoolchildren.

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"With most of the world's blind people living in low-income countries, it is vital we develop new tools to increase early detection and appropriate referral for treatment," said Bastawrous. "Mobile phone use is now so widespread that it seemed to be an ideal platform."

The study is published in Opthamology.

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