Orbis International’s New Funding to Help Expand Global Access to Eyecare via Technology

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MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.—Orbis International announced last week the launch of its Silicon Valley Orbis Innovation Fund, which seeks to raise $8 million in donations “to harness the next generation of technology that will revolutionize the future of equitable access to quality eyecare and ophthalmological training.” The fund kicked off with a $1 million lead donation from Silicon Valley philanthropists Susan and John A. Sobrato, at an event held at Mountain View's Computer History Museum, according to the announcement.

The new technologies will include innovations in telemedicine, artificial intelligence, simulation and virtual reality that will increase access to training for eyecare teams in low- and middle-income settings.

“Hundreds of millions of people go through life facing blindness and visual impairment simply because they can't get the eyecare they need,” Orbis International president and chief executive Bob Ranck said in the announcement. “We have an opportunity to change that. Training entire eyecare teams – everyone from health workers in rural clinics to eye surgeons in urban centers – is the best, most sustainable way to ensure no one needlessly lives a life without sight."

The Silicon Valley Orbis Innovation Fund will expand the reach and impact of Orbis's extensive achievements in technology and innovation in several ways, including the following two programs:

Telemedicine: For more than 15 years, Cybersight (an award-winning telemedicine platform) has used the latest advancements in internet technologies to give local eyecare teams virtual access to clinical training, live lectures, surgical demonstrations, and on-demand advice for complex patient cases, the announcement noted. Through Cybersight, Orbis trained nearly 6,000 eye health professionals in 165 countries, including in remote and conflict-affected areas, in 2018 alone. One of the most important goals of the Fund is to develop a robust Cybersight mobile app because mobile phones are far more prevalent than computers in many of the countries where Orbis works. This will provide even more doctors and clinicians – including in remote and conflict-affected areas – with access to training and virtual mentoring. The Fund will also cover the development of new Cybersight courses as well as enhancements to the platform.

Artificial Intelligence: A new artificial intelligence tool on Cybersight can detect common eye diseases, such as diabetic retinopathy, in seconds by examining digital photographs of the back of the eye. This is game-changing for increasing access to early detection, which is critical to prevent treatable eye conditions from leading to vision loss. Refinements needed to further increase the accuracy of the technology and the number of conditions it can detect will be made possible through the Fund.