Telemedicine and Retinopathy of Prematurity at the APAO

The Asia Pacific Academy of Ophthalmology Congress is being held in Sydney this week, with around 4000 eye health professionals from more than 60 countries. It’s exciting that this is happening in Australia, and it’s an opportunity to see and hear some of the many challenges in eye care, and some of the solutions being offered. 

I was involved in a symposium at the APAO Congress sponsored by Clarity Medical Systems, makers of the RetCam wide-field digital fundus camera, on Monday night, to discuss Telemedicine in retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Telemedicine is one of the solutions to the problem of providing specialist care to people separated from specialist services by large distances. I started Australia’s first telemedicine program for ROP at the Mater in 2009, and I was asked to present our experiences at the symposium.

 I was absolutely blown away by Dr Anand Vinekar’s program in Bangalore, India, which currently visits 23 neonatal intensive care units serving a population of 57 million in his home state of Karnataka in India, and is comprehensively backed up with bespoke IT services that connect doctors involved in screening to the program with an iPhone app (an iPad app is coming soon). This is a great example of innovative thinking and dedication, combined with relentless energy. I came back inspired and humbled.

 Dr Helen Mintz-Hittner from Houston presented her study BEAT-ROP, which was published only a few weeks ago in the New England Journal of Medicine. It’s very unusual for an ophthalmic paper to make it into this journal, and reflects how critically important this paper is. Helen and her team demonstrated improved outcomes for some babies with ROP treated with Avastin (Bevacizumab), which has been used for a few years now to treat macular degeneration. I think this is going to have as big an impact on the management of ROP as Avastin and Lucentis (Ranibizumab) have had on macular degeneration.

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