World's first tele-examination of an eye using 5G broadband

By Jennifer Allen 3 October 2019

5G eye trial using 5G broadband

The world's first tele-examination of an eye in 4K resolution using 5G broadband has been completed at Moorfields Eye Hospital in East London.

Delivered by consultant ophthalmologist and director of digital innovation at the hospital, Peter Thomas, along with consultant ophthalmologist, Iain Livingstone, the event was streamed live between London and a conference in Edinburgh.

It marks the first time that a tele-examination has been streamed using 5G resolution and in 4K resolution, and suggests a moving trend towards more remote examinations.

Peter Thomas used a 5G connected phone attached to a portable slit lamp outside the Richard Desmond Children's Eye Centre in London to provide a live image of his eye for examination for Livingstone to evaluate in Edinburgh.

The test demonstrated that an eye image of high enough quality to be used in a clinical environment can be streamed in real time thanks to 5G technology.

Such remote imaging was achieved using the Attend Anywhere platform which is designed to use 4K streaming to provide a high quality video feed where even the smallest details of potential disease can be visualised by a professional. The hope is that it makes tele-examination more accessible to the masses, potentially advancing diagnostic methods.

Patient benefits

For the patient, there's the convenience of not needing to travel to hospital or to a distant specialist and it also means that potentially ophthalmologists can deal with more patients in a shorter space of time with no decrease in quality of service.

Such technology also means that there could be an increase in access to specialist advice for patients in under-resourced countries, providing there's a good internet connection and some relevant low cost equipment for the doctor located there.

Moorfields Eye Hospital is aiming to launch teleconsultation services for its patients on the Attend Anywhere platform in the next few months. It's part of an NHS Improvement pilot that hopes to enrich medical services via better technologies.

"This demonstration marked a significant turning point in tele-ophthalmology as we were able to deliver such detailed images in real time, using readily available equipment. At Moorfields we have some very highly specialised doctors in rare diseases who could make their expertise available at a greater distance with this technology, which could have a significant positive impact on many patients," explained Peter Thomas, director of digital innovation and consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital.

Overall, there was immensely positive feedback from many of the doctors involved in the trial, thanks to the high quality of the image sent back to Edinburgh.

It'll be fascinating to see what the future brings to the field. There are positive suggestions here that it could bring home for those suffering from ailments while living far from the specialists they need. The end of the postcode health lottery? 5G could yet bring that.

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