NNUH doctor takes part in world’s first 5G virtual eye examination

A Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) doctor has become the first in the world to take part in a virtual eye examination using a 5G smart phone.

A team of doctors including Chrishan Gunasekera, who is an ophthalmology registrar at NNUH and NHS clinical entrepreneur, and Peter Thomas, consultant ophthalmologist and director of digital innovation at Moorfields Eye Hospital, carried out the telemedicine eye examination in London, which was live streamed to consultant ophthalmologist Iain Livingstone, from NHS Forth Valley, at a conference in Edinburgh in 4K resolution.

Chrishan Gunasekera carrying out the eye examination on Peter Thomas

Mr Gunasekera said advances in mobile phone technology would help to revolutionise healthcare and the development of a 5G network and high quality imaging would enable ophthalmologists to carry out more virtual clinics in the future.

This remote imaging was achieved using the Attend Anywhere platform, which utilised 4K streaming to provide a high quality video feed where the smallest details of disease can be visualised by an ophthalmologist who may be many miles away.

Mr Gunasekera carried out the eye examination on Peter Thomas, consultant ophthalmologist and director of digital innovation at Moorfields. He added that the first 5G eye examination had already had lots of positive feedback.

“It’s been amazing to utilise the full resolution of one of the latest smartphone cameras to perform a remote eye exam. This will really be transformative to patient care. There is no doubt that this is just the start and this is the future. This is a very useful tool to establish what is going on and for getting a quick diagnosis and referral to the right treatment.

It fits in with today’s narrative with 5G being very useful for the future of healthcare. There are 2,000 eye doctors in the UK – it takes many years to train and the number of patients is increasing.”

Mr Gunasekera is passionate about developing technology to improve patient care and at the West Suffolk Hospital he helped develop an app enabling virtual diagnosis for patients arriving at A&E with an eye emergency and he is developing a similar initiative at NNUH.

The use of 5G has many potential benefits to patients, including the added convenience for patients who might no longer need to travel into hospital and can be examined by a distant specialist ophthalmologist at their local optometrist or Emergency Department. The platform could also provide more patients with access to specialists in rare diseases who might be based far away from the patient.

Moorfields is planning on launching teleconsultation services to our patients on the Attend Anywhere platform as part of an NHS Improvement pilot in the next few months.

Peter Thomas, director of digital innovation and consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, said: “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.”

NHS Forth Valley consultant ophthalmologist, Iain Livingstone, who was at the distant end of the tele-consultation, said:I was excited to see the first ultra-high resolution tele-ophthalmology call via the 5G network. Keeping pace with these technological advancements means we can send and receive remarkably high definition video referrals which are particularly useful for relaying fine detail during a remote eye examination.

“We are delighted to see the system, collaboratively pioneered by NHS Forth Valley and the University of Strathclyde, get traction in more Health Boards across Scotland and variations evolve south of the Border.”

Chrishan Gunasekera


Thursday 3rd of October 2019 09:32:22 AM