Interview

Collaborations between Govt, Pvt Sector to Expand Access to Eye Care

Remidio, a medical technology company, has adopted a multifaceted approach to raise awareness among physicians and the public about the benefits of AI. The company has collaborated with regulatory authorities, medical bodies, and institutions to develop sustainable models for last-mile screening and testing. Dr Shonraj Ballae, Head of Clinical Research, Remidio reveals more about the company’s plan for the Indian market

What is the future of medical technology in eye care in India?

The answer to the future of medical innovation within eye care in India lies within the ecosystem’s collective innovation. Technology partnerships (public and private) will ensure India’s blindness load is reduced and as a country, we lose the tag “India is home to more than 20 per cent of the world’s blind population and the largest number of blind children in any one country.”

The need to democratise eyecare will ensure that screening for leading causes of blindness such as cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and refractive errors reaches every citizen of the country – to detect early signs of these conditions and prevent blindness among those with these  lindness
causing conditions.

The economic loss associated with blindness, or moderate or severe visual impairment (MSVI) stands at a whopping $55 billion. This should serve as the impetus for the coming together of the ecosystem – ophthalmologists, eye care providers, public health systems and technology solution providers – to avoid more  Indians going blind. Collaborations between the government and private sector will be crucial in expanding access to eye care, leveraging both public health initiatives and the innovation of private companies.

Which new technologies in eye care are in the pipeline in the Indian market?

As screening for eye conditions is democratised, the need for continuous adoption of technologies such as AI  and teleophthalmology is driving India’s current eye care space. The future would augment the innovation of
smart, simple, and portable eye care devices that could be operated by a non-specialist for screening citizens  to educate and thus empower the patient with personalised information to close the care gap.

Compact and mobile fundus cameras and optical coherence tomography (OCT) devices are becoming more prevalent. These allow for on-the-go screening and monitoring of eye health, which is critical for rural and
underserved populations. For urban India, the introduction of wearable technology (Smart glasses and
contact lenses) could be the first step towards providing non-invasive eye care within the comfort of the patient’s home will be a reality soon.

India is advancing in AI and telemedicine in the eye health space. What are Remidio’s plans
in this regard? Remidio has introduced technologies such as AI and teleophthalmology in India. But given the poor Internet connectivity in India’s most remote locations, would AI be the solution to India’s eye care needs?

Any AI would need the Internet for inferencing. Remidio is driven by its mission to democratise eyecare and hence has developed the world’s first offline AI that works without the need for inferencing in the year 2019. Since then, the team has pushed the bar for innovation and good science. We developed clinically validated algorithms to screen for the three major blindness-causing conditions – DR, Glaucoma and AMD. As we developed and deployed offline AI solutions at the last mile, team Remidio’s vision got bigger. Our patient-centric and patient privacypreserving AI underwent extensive realworld, prospective clinical validations to ensure  its effectiveness beyond test datasets by collaborating with leading medical specialists, medical bodies, and institutions.

As we continue to deploy our technology solutions in primary care settings across 40+ countries, our clinical and AI research team led by an ophthalmologist decided to look beyond the eye and explore the potential
of non-invasive retinal imaging to predict systemic diseases like cardiovascular and neurodegenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s. This is the direction technology is heading, and Remidio is committed to leading the way.

How do you plan to tie up with the Indian government in this regard?
Remidio has adopted a multifaceted approach to raise awareness among physicians and the public about the
benefits of AI. Remidio is collaborating with regulatory authorities, medical bodies, and institutions to develop sustainable models for last-mile screening and testing. A positive development is the government’s initiative under the ABDM policy to eradicate blindness by incentivising the screening of chronic conditions such as
Diabetic Retinopathy and Glaucoma.

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