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This past Saturday the 5th Asia Pacific Tele-Ophthalmology Society (APTOS) symposium was broadcast live from Seoul. Of course, 2020 is ‘different’ and whist most attendees were no doubt disappointed not to be present in Seoul, the organisers and members of APTOS produced a stellar event. For the first time, IAPB was significantly involved in the congress, together with our key Korean member and co-hosts at Yonsei University.
Organising Committee Chair, Dr Sangchul Yoon noted that “collaboration and cooperation between the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) and Asian Pacific Tele-ophthalmology Society (APTOS) can bring dramatic advancement for public eye health to solve the long existing problems of working in resource limited conditions.”
Indeed, APTOS’ focus on sharing and discussing the application of various technologies in eye health has been given particular impetus by the pandemic and also builds on the recommendations from the WHO World Report on Vision. It was fitting that Dr Alarcos Cieza, WHO Coordinator, Blindness and Deafness Prevention, Disability and Rehabilitation, opened the meeting.
A particular focus was the development of fundus cameras using upcycling smartphones as an appropriate technology and for clinical applications. In addition there was much discussion of how the technology companies, including Samsung Electronics, can contribute to promoting the health of marginalized populations beyond their traditional markets. The scene was set by IAPB Regional Chair, Amanda Davis in her plenary address, when she highlighted the need to create interest from ‘end users’. Phil Hoare from the IAPB Valued Supplier scheme followed this by highlighting to attendees the AI solutions and technologies most requested by programme implementation partners. Dr Fabrizio D’Esposito from the Fred Hollows Foundation sounded a note of caution – one size does not always fit all and implementing bodies must be careful to properly tailor their interventions to local need and context.
Overall, APTOS highlighted the possible in a year that has been filled with disruption and barriers. In other words, as Dr Yoon adds, “tele-ophthalmology has a profound potential to enable task-shifting through assigning certain parts of roles of ophthalmologists, who are usually available in only high resource settings, to already existing health human resources in community level for effective and efficient provision of services.” A good news story to emerge from the challenges of 2020.