On Tuesday, March 8, 2016, the Student Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanities (S-VOSH) chapter of New England College of Optometry received a SVOne Autorefractor from Smart Vision Labs. The SVOne is a lightweight, handheld, portable smartphone-based autorefractor. The device consists of an iPhone hooked up to a gentle class 1 laser that allows a clinician to get an estimated base line so that they can provide the patient with a more accurate prescription in minutes compared to the more conventional method.
The speed and portability of the SVOne will be particularly useful on VOSH trips. VOSH is a non-profit group that strives to bring access to vision care to individuals around the world. On VOSH trips, student clinicians, along with practicing optometrists, travel to underserved populations around the world to provide eye examinations and prescription eyeglasses. The NECO VOSH group will travel to the Dominican Republic in April.
Smart Vision Labs and its creators partnered with VOSH International in September 2015 and agreed to donate one SVOne autorefractor for every ten devices they sold. NECO’s S-VOSH group became the third recipient of an SVOne Autorefractor. Marc Albanese, COO of Smart Vision explains, “We are proud to further NECO and VOSH’s work through this partnership. We are committed to supporting student optometrists to use the latest refraction technology in providing quality vision care globally and locally.”
Maya Major from Smart Vision Labs came to campus to present the SVOne to Student VOSH president Sara Hanna, Class of 2017, and provided training on how to use the device in the field. Ms. Hanna has been a member of S-VOSH for several years. When asked how she became involved, she explains, “I grew up in Alexandria, Egypt and I witnessed many poor and underserved people not getting services they needed. I think that was what lit this passion inside me to want to help and serve.” She was motivated by hearing about the work done by VOSH-International to provide free vision care to underserved areas around the globe and joined the group once at NECO. She notes, “Many people don’t realize how essential a pair of glasses can be and the difference it makes in someone’s life.”
Ms. Hanna notes the incredible impact of a VOSH trip. On her trip in 2015, the group treated just under 1000 patients and provided eyeglasses to all the patients who needed them. “As you can imagine, many of these patients suffered from common ocular conditions like dry eye, inflamed and red eyes, and eyelid sties, which could really impact their daily lives and cause a lot of pain if not treated with simple eye drops.”
Even with this amazing volume, she explains that they had to turn away patients due to lack of time. The S-VOSH group hopes to treat even more patients this year using the SVOne to assist in autorefraction. Ms. Hanna explains, “I believe that the SVOne will allow us to be much more efficient when checking for a patient’s prescription. The SVOne will not replace our traditional retinoscopy method of finding a patient’s Rx, but it will make tough cases easier to manage. We find that language barriers sometimes make it difficult to get an accurate response from some patients and the SVOne should help by giving us a baseline. We want to make sure we provide each one [patient] with the most proper prescription and so in those cases the device will definitely help us get a more objective response which we can then refine.”
The compact SVOne includes an iPhone 5s attached to the device and fits into a small case. The portability of the device is extremely appealing to Ms. Hanna. “The SVOne is small and can be easily carried in a backpack or a suitcase without any issues.” She is looking forward to using it on her upcoming VOSH trip. VOSH groups typically work in unconventional settings, and Ms. Hanna anticipates that the device will help the group deal with challenges of lighting and space limitations. “What I also find appealing about the device is how easy it is to use. Almost everyone has a smartphone of some sort and is familiar with the basic features of iPhones and that’s all you need to know. This device comes with the manual and step by step instructions on how to use the application on how to use the application on the phone.”