Is Big Data the Answer to Improving Eye Care Utilisation in Children Worldwide?


Last month, our Head of Research at Plano, Dr Joshua Foreman, had planned to give an oral presentation on some of Plano’s research activities at the Annual Meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology, or ARVO, in Baltimore in the U.S., which is a major global conference where eye health experts meet to share ideas and present their research.

Sadly, ARVO was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but we still wanted to share our important work with the world, so Dr Foreman did the next best thing, which was to record himself delivering his ARVO presentation from his home and make it freely available online. The presentation can be viewed here.

In his presentation, Dr Foreman discussed how the plano application is being used to collect big data on eye care service utilisation among children in 8 countries. In his talk, Dr Foreman described how Plano’s capacity to collect big data through the plano application represents an efficient and disruptive method for answering major questions about eye health at a population level in a way that overcomes many of the cost, geographical and logistical barriers of conventional research.

This presentation set out to answer one of the many questions that Plano is working to answer: What proportion of plano users had undergone an eye examination within the past year?

This question needs to be answered because the world is facing a rapidly worsening global myopia crisis, with half the world’s population expected to be myopic by 2050, and in order to prevent or slow myopia’s progression, or simply treat the condition so that children are able to function normally in the world, they must undergo regular and timely eye examinations.

So Dr Foreman presented a snapshot of the plano app’s userbase from November 2019 in which the rates of utilisation among children across the whole sample of 8 countries as well as Singapore more specifically were discussed. It is important to remember though that the plano userbase has grown substantially since these data were analysed. The results were staggering nonetheless.

The results

We discovered just how severely paediatric eye healthcare services are under-utilised in every country in which the plano app has been launched. In fact, only 22.6% children across all 8 countries had ever had an eye examination and 9% had been examined in the past year.

Only 7% of non-myopes had an eye examination in the past year and alarmingly, even among those with myopia, only 33.1% had an eye examination in the past year.

The highest rate of utilisation was found in Singapore, with 15.1% of children having undergone an eye exam in the past year. This is still low given that Singapore is known to have both a high prevalence of myopia and a world-class health system.

Considering these findings, one thing is explicitly clear. We have to close the loop in paediatric eye healthcare service delivery in Singapore and around the world as almost all of the vision loss that occurs from myopia is correctable, and timely consultation with an optometrist may provide the opportunity to actually slow the progression of myopia through lifestyle or medical intervention.

Our ARVO presentation has shown that because most children are not undergoing sufficiently regular eye examinations, an unacceptable proportion of them are at risk of having myopia that is progressing undetected and untreated, which places them at risk of severe impacts on quality of life, social interactions, and learning.

How can these findings help us?

We need to use these findings to inform policy formulation to deliver much needed eye care to more children.

This is exactly what we at Plano aim to do.

For example, Plano Eyecheck, which is integrated in the plano app, allows families in Singapore to connect with their nearest optometrist and to locate, book and manage their appointments for a variety of eye care services all from a single platform. Similarly, the rest of our products and services in our ecosystem, be it our reports, outreach programmes in schools and workplaces, our educational resources on our website, or our app, aim to empower early intervention in eye care.

Ultimately, for us as Plano, the role of the big data we continue to capture is to enable us to understand more about paediatric eye healthcare. As our user base continues to grow, we will continue to answer more and more questions and develop new ways to reduce the burden of myopia in children around the world.

In this together

The fight against myopia as well as against device addiction is a global problem and it requires global solutions. Plano is one piece of the puzzle, but true strength comes from working together.

At the heart of Plano’s ethos is the importance of research, science, innovation and creative thinking. We welcome research institutes, universities, governments and other organisations to contact us to form research partnerships so that together we can save sight and empower lives.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *