Hackathon series puts focus on digital eye care

January 23, 2017
Thomas A. Wong, OD

Dr. Wong is a Diplomate of the American Board of Optometry and a member of the AOA Ethics committee and ASCO Ethics SIG. He is a past president of the Maryland Optometric Association, and an appointee to the American Medical Association’s Physician’s Cons

Since the start of the 21st century, technology has revolutionized how we care for our glaucoma, retina, contact lens, low vision, and refractive surgery patients. However, the primary care eye exam has remained relatively unchanged.

How do we move from the 21-point eye exam to 21st century digital eye care?

Since the start of the 21st century, technology has revolutionized how we care for our glaucoma, retina, contact lens, low vision, and refractive surgery patients. However, the primary care eye exam has remained relatively unchanged.

We have certainly taken excellent care of our patients for many years, but what does this status quo have to do with patient outcomes or a reliance on our own comfort levels?

There has been a revolution in higher education over the last decade transitioning to digital learning and away from linear, analog learning processes.

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Evolution of digital thinking

Digital thinking, augmented/virtual reality, and non-traditional methods of teaching have certainly not replaced standard teaching methods, but they have found important niches-and have grown exponentially.

The optometric profession seems to have a fascination with ocular disease. Some have long argued that we no longer place enough emphasis on refraction and binocular vision.

The more widespread use of medical imaging and digital eye care should allow us to not only be more efficient but also obtain more accurate objective findings yielding improved patient outcomes.

Only then would optometrists be able to spend more time on binocular vision and other visual anomalies when appropriate.

On May 6 and November 18, 2016, approximately 50 people (SUNY faculty, residents, students, alumni, researchers, other optometrists, industry experts, and other professionals) participated in the first two SUNY New Technologies Unit Hackathons.

 

Hackathon provides chance to learn

The SUNY Hackathon Series aims to create new models of patient care, education, and communication with the goal of improving patient outcomes.

Hackathons are digital-era tools designed to connect participants, both in person and digitally, for the purpose of breaking down existing processes into discrete new units and rebuilding them from the ground up.

The term “hacking” refers to taking something apart and rebuilding it to make it better, give it a new function, or do something surprising and disruptive.

A “hackathon” is an event in which participants “hack” on a problem or focus area for an allotted period of time with the goal of building or creating a solution (via a product, service, tool, etc.).

Hackathons look to identify opportunities by understanding the user’s experience.

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The events start with an overview presentation and end with a series of short presentations that are judged on several categories, e.g., innovation, ability to be implemented, and quality of the presentation.

The first hackathon’s goal was to design the “Future Eye Exam.” Participant groups were given the task of creating a six-minute presentation to the National Eye Institute on how eye examinations should be conducted.

The second hackathon centered on “The Future of Optometric Education.” Participant groups were asked to design a mobile app to be used for optometric student/intern and resident education, optometric continuing education, and optometric board certification review.

Hackathon II utilized zoom videoconferencing cloud meeting technology allowing both the University of Waterloo and Western University to participate.

Both Western and Waterloo Universities are intellectual partners in designing and implementing the mobile app for optometric education-scheduled to be unveiled at the American Optometric Association’s (AOA) Optometry’s Meeting in June 2017.

The third hackathon will be held in Washington, DC, during Optometry’s Meeting.

This third event-and last of the Hackathon Series-will be an inter-professional hackathon in collaboration with the nursing profession. The goal will be to create new models of patient education to communicate the importance of vision in the learning process with patients, parents, and families.

 

Results of Hackathon I and II

After analysis of Hackathon I on The Future Eye Exam, common themes were found:

• Integrated patient portal

• Use of wavefront aberrometry for refraction, and diagnostic testing

• Wide-angle fundus photography and similar convergent technologies as screening procedures

• Automated visual acuity (VA) technology with contrast sensitivity and real-world simulations

• Virtual and augmented reality simulations

• Delegation of data collection to technicians-ODs to perform data interpretation

• Use of cloud-based services for biomedical informatics

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Many of the above themes are already in wide use-and how eye exams evolve is a complex process that is ongoing.

Mobile app designs from Hackathon II on The Future of Optometric Education are currently being developed by a team from SUNY, Western University, and the University of Waterloo.

SUNY’s Hackathon Series has been modelled after Georgetown University’s hackathon, Designing the Future University from the Inside.

Also, organizational concepts were derived from Stanford University’s Collaborative Stanford-Centered Hackathon Experience, and MIT’s Hacking Medicine Series. Prior to each hackathon, participants were sent TEDx videos to watch on innovation, creativity, and new concepts in education.

Participants were encouraged to move away from linear, analog thinking that has been the basis of education, to digital learning processes that are important for success.

 

Optometry needs to evolve digitally

Digital learning processes are important to optimally utilize new technologies in medicine and eye care. We now live in a connected world without boundaries. Mobile health applications have been at the center of medical education for well over a decade.

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For our optometric profession to advance and fulfill its critical role in the delivery of health care, we need to utilize innovative technologies to improve patient outcomes, and educate optometrists, optometric faculty, residents, and students.

The ability to utilize innovative technology to enhance inter-professional relationships, and integrate culturally competent care is essential to improving patient outcomes. 

Read more from our technology department here

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