Technology and Innovation In Eye Care

With avoidable blindness set to triple by 2050, we need to reverse the trend before it’s too late. The old way simply isn’t working. We need to push boundaries and lead from the front of eye health innovation now, if we’re going to help ensure a brighter tomorrow.

A paper published by the Lancet in 2017 predicts that the number of blind and visually impaired people in the world is set to triple by 2050. Even though efforts from across the eye health sector have led to a decrease in the prevalence of blindness, global trends such as an ageing population, general population growth and the rise of diseases such as diabetes means we are facing a new blindness crisis.

At Orbis we know the only way to counter this new threat is to collaborate with partners to pioneer the latest in cutting-edge technology. We believe this is the best way to enable us to share critical skills and knowledge with more eye teams around the world, and ultimately, help us reach more people who are needlessly blind - more efficiently - than ever before.

A Cybersight live video consultation

Dr. Dan Neely discusses a case with Dr. Wael Hamoudeh in Syria

As Dr. Dan Neely, professor of Ophthalmology University of Indiana, and medical advisor for Orbis puts it "You can only send people and equipment to so many places, but you can go everywhere, an unlimited number of times, with technology. That is the power and force-multiplier that technology provides us.

While the sector has been making good progress since the 1990s, reducing the prevalence of avoidable blindness from 4.58% to 3.37% in 2015, an ageing global population and the risk of a diabetes explosion on the horizon means global blindness is still set to triple by 2050. Using the latest technological advancements is one of the ways we can reverse this trend

Innovating to Fight Blindness

For more than 30 years the cornerstone of our work has been to train eye teams in order to improve the quality of care available around the world. We have a network of 400 world leading Volunteer Faculty members who are the best in the business - but only by harnessing the latest advancements in internet and mobile technologies can we maximize their impact.

Here are a few of the ways we're using technology to fight the growing blindness crisis.


Through our award-winning telemedicine platform, Cybersight, we can make an impact in places where a physical presence simply isn't possible due to cost, logistics or security. With advanced online training tools and access to international expert faculty and trainers, Cybersight is a global platform that helps eye health professionals, regardless of where they are.

At the click of a button it allows our Volunteer Faculty to improve skills, collaborate on diagnosis and treatment of patients and connect with a truly global community of practice that includes technicians, nurses, optometrists and ophthalmologists.

In 2019 alone we trained more than 7,600 eye health professionals in 183 countries with Cybersight live teaching events. We also facilitated more than 1,800 patient consultations.

Cybersight is our award winning telemedicine platform

Flying Eye Hospital

Our Flying Eye Hospital is not only packed with the latest medical equipment, it has some of the very latest training facilities too. The entire plane is linked up through an advanced audio visual system, meaning those in the classroom can watch surgeries happening in the operating theater live in 3D - making it as close to the real thing as looking down the microscope yourself.

CNBC visit the Flying Eye Hospital in 2017

Simulation Center

Just as pilots learn to fly planes through simulation training, our simulation training program uses virtual reality, cutting-edge prosthetics, and highly sophisticated, life-like mannequins so that eye care teams can build their skills and confidence safely before progressing to real-life surgeries.

Simulation training has been proven to effectively decrease complication rates, reduce surgical time and improve outcomes among a surgeon’s early surgical cases. This results in a better patient experience, cost savings and improved standards of care.

Our simulation training is another example of how we're using technology to train more eye health professionals to end avoidable blindness.

We first introduced simulation training onboard the Flying Eye Hospital in 2018 with funding from Collins Aerospace, and have since rolled out the technology in two teaching institutions in South America, where trainees can use audiovisual equipment connected to microscopes to record their simulated surgical assignments, then submit them to board-certified specialists for assessment based on international standards.

Artificial Intelligence

A new artificial intelligence tool on our Cybersight platform can detect common eye diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy, in seconds by examining digital photographs of the back of the eye. This is game-changing for increasing access to early detection, which is critical to prevent treatable eye conditions from leading to vision loss. Further refinements will be made to increase the accuracy of the technology and the number of conditions this incredible tool can detect .

Our AI system analyzes images of the back of the eye taken with any standard retina camera or even mobile phones

Boost App

BOOST (Better Operative Outcomes Software Tool) is a simple, free and user-friendly app designed to help monitor and improve cataract surgical outcomes. Developed in partnership with leading players in the eye care sector, the app takes eye care professionals through a step-by-step process to measure and analyze results by providing access to data in similar cases and making suggestions to correct issues and identify risks.

The app followed a discovery which showed that testing vision immediately after an operation is a good way of measuring the quality of the surgery.

Dr. Dan Neely

Professor of Ophthalmology University of Indiana, and Orbis Volunteer Faculty

You can only send peo­ple and equip­ment to so many places, but you can go every­where, an unlim­it­ed num­ber of times, with tech­nol­o­gy. That is the pow­er and force-mul­ti­pli­er that tech­nol­o­gy pro­vides us.

Virtual Reality

Orbis, in collaboration with FundamentalVR, is currently developing a touch-sensitive, virtual reality training platform that will allow ophthalmology students to practice procedures on their own, without a professor present, on what feels like actual human tissue.

It's the world’s first-ever technology of its kind to use low-cost, off-the-shelf hardware, which will make it available at a fraction of the cost of existing surgical simulators. The platform will particularly benefit doctors in places where previous simulators were too big or expensive to be deployed.

A local partner using virtual reality goggles for eye health training

New VR technology will enhance the quality of ophthalmology practice globally.

The first procedure available on the platform will be the surgical technique that is most commonly used in developing countries for treating cataract, the world’s leading cause of blindness. Future developments will enable students to use the same hardware to complete virtual reality training that improves their treatment of glaucoma, strabismus and other eye conditions.

We’d like to say a big thank you to our supporters and partners, it is due to their commitment that we're able to look for new ways to use technology to fight blindness in communities around the world.

Only by innovating will we be able to confront the blindness epidemic on the horizon.

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