Thursday, September 20, 2012

Smartphones can be a big help to visually impaired, but many doctors not recommending them

iPhones and other smartphones can be a huge help to the visually impaired, but few vision doctors are recommending them to patients, according to a study co-authored by a Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine ophthalmologist.

Researchers surveyed 46 low-vision adults from The Chicago Lighthouse and the Spectrios Institute for Low Vision in Wheaton, Ill. Participants’ best-corrected vision ranged from 20/70 to complete blindness.

Researchers found that only 15 percent of patients reported that a vision doctor had recommended smartphones for the devices’ accessibility features.

Eleven of the 46 patients (24 percent) used smartphones. Their average age was 36. Thirty patients (65 percent) used basic cell phones; their average age was 67. Five patients (11 percent) did not own any cell phones.

“Young, visually impaired patients are getting ahead of their doctors,” said Dr. Walter M. Jay, a Loyola ophthalmologist and senior author of the study, which was presented at the 2012 ARVO Annual Meeting. “Low-vision specialists should be getting out in front on this rather than being behind the curve."

Jay said these are among the accessibility features that smartphones offer to the visually impaired:

  • Font sizes can be increased to as large as 56 pt., enabling users with very poor vision to text and email
  • The screen can be brightened considerably
  • GPS and voice features help the visually impaired to navigate

“Smartphones can dramatically improve the quality of life of people with poor vision,” Jay said.

Jay is the John M. Krasa, MD, Professor of Ophthalmology in the Department of Ophthalmology of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Co-authors of the study are Raman Bhakhri, OD, (first author); Robert Chun, OD; and John Coalter, OD.


About Loyola University Health System

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is part of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. Loyola University Medical Center’s campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of Chicago’s Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. At the heart of the medical center campus is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children's Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Loyola University Chicago Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola's Gottlieb campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.

Trinity Health is a national Catholic health system with an enduring legacy and a steadfast mission to be a transforming and healing presence within the communities we serve. Trinity is committed to being a people-centered health care system that enables better health, better care and lower costs. Trinity Health has 88 hospitals and hundreds of continuing care facilities, home care agencies and outpatient centers in 21 states and 119,000 employees.