Teleophthalmology as a Model for Detecting Ocular Diseases in Tribal Areas of a North West State in India

Indian J Community Med. 2021 Jan-Mar;46(1):62-65. doi: 10.4103/ijcm.IJCM_199_20. Epub 2021 Mar 1.


BACKGROUND: Lahaul and Spiti district of Himachal Pradesh, a high altitude tribal district, situated at altitudes varying from 10,000 to 15, 000 ft. above mean sea level is cut off from the rest of the country for nearly 6 months due to heavy snowfall in the mountain passes. In the absence of any ophthalmologist and ophthalmic technician, the provision of eye care is virtually absent. The current study (part of a research project funded by the Indian Council of Medical Research) was conducted with the aim to explore teleophthalmology as a model for detecting posterior segment eye diseases in tribal and inaccessible areas.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Fundus images (taken through fundus photography) of 1000 individuals above 5 years of age with no improvement in vision to 6/6 on refraction and individuals with known history of diabetes mellitus, systemic hypertension, or long standing headache with features of raised intracranial tension irrespective of whether their vision improved to 6/6 or not were sent to tertiary care center (base hospital) from regional hospital (field hospital). Transmitted images (through internet after attaching the details and patient particulars on the excel sheet) were analyzed by the ophthalmologists and the final diagnosis along with the line of management if any was transmitted back.

RESULTS: Eighty-five percent of the images transmitted were of good quality. Retinal, vitreous, optic nerve head, and choroidal diseases could be detected.

CONCLUSIONS: In the present situation, where trained workforce is unavailable in these areas, teleophthamology is an appropriate tool by which a number of eye diseases can be detected at early stages. Most of them can be treated in these early stages by lifestyle modification and medical management.

PMID:34035578 | PMC:PMC8117889 | DOI:10.4103/ijcm.IJCM_199_20