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Mhealth Screening Solutions.

 

Focus Area
Early Healthcare & Nutrition
Innovation Lever
Existing product, service or platform
Stage
Proof of concept
Status
Closed
Mobile hearing and vision screening tools that can be used by anyone, anywhere. hearScreen™ is an award-winning hearing test solution, while Peek Acuity offers a clinically-validated visual acuity testing – both on a smartphone.
The Problem.

Screening for hearing and vision impairment is vital, but challenging in impoverished and rural communities, where access to medical experts is scarce. The earlier hearing loss or visual impairments are diagnosed and treated, the better chance children have of developing to their fullest potential. At the time of our investment in late 2015, there were no systematic screening programmes using a combined approach to detect childhood vision and hearing problems in preschool children in underserved communities. Early detection of hearing loss and vision problems before school-entry is essential to ensuring a child’s ability to learn.
The Innovation.

Traditionally, hearing and vision screening services have been limited to hospitals and clinics, because the screening tests require expensive equipment and trained professionals. As a result, children in low-income communities have not had easy access to screening. This investment provided cost-effective combined vision and hearing screening for preschool aged children through trained community workers visiting community-based preschools. It also built a referral pipeline to ensure that every child who was identified as requiring intervention received the necessary support.

Between January 2016 and the end of March 2017, as part of a Joint Sensory Screening Initiative (JSSI), the hearXgroup screened a total of 6,818 children aged between 2 and 7 years for hearing and 3,379 for both hearing and vision across 324 early learning centres, in the township of Mamelodi in Pretoria. The aim of the pilot was to test a smartphone hearing test solution, called hearScreen™ and a smartphone vision test solution called, Peek Acuity, and to establish a referral pipeline to ensure access to support for those children identified with either hearing or vision loss. 26 Percent of children screened were identified to have some hearing impairment and referred to local clinics.

The pilot has helped to inform improvements to the technology and the implementation process, increase the level of parent consent and has contributed to streamlining the referral system to ensure adequate follow through.

For more information take a look at the Case Study by UNESCO-Pearson Initiative for Literacy and view the Paper in the World Health Organisation Bulletin. You can also access the hearX Group’s numerous media campaigns and awards here.

How it works
hearScreen™ is an award-winning hearing test solution on a smartphone. Its user-friendly design allows laypersons with minimal training to screen for hearing loss and offers affordable mobile testing for everyone, from young children to adults.

hearScreen™ operates on Android-based smartphones or tablet devices, and delivers the screening via calibrated headphones. Test administrators undergo basic audiology training prior to using the digital solution, to ensure they understand the concepts specific to hearing screening. The training covers test procedures, delivering instructions to the patient, conditioning the patient to respond when they hear a sound, noise monitoring, and communicating the results to the patient.

During the exam, the screener explains the procedure to the patient in their mother tongue, selects the icons to begin the automated protocol, and records the patient’s responses. The application analyses the responses and reports either a pass (with no further action required) or a fail, with referral options. When a referral is recommended, hearScreen™ can provide information on the nearest clinic.

Peek Acuity offers a clinically-validated visual acuity (sharpness of vision) test on a smartphone. Developed by Peek Vision, the app calculates the visual acuity and presents it at the end of the test.

To offer a combined health solution, Peek Acuity was integrated into the mHealth Studio App, the hearX Group’s mobile interface for patient and facility data capturing and management. Its ecosystem design houses each mHealth solution for ease-of-use and offers online data management, surveillance, referrals and report generation.

Why we invested.

Identifying hearing loss or vision impairments at a very early age is important, because children with undiagnosed conditions often fall behind their peers in speech and language development, cognitive skills and social skills. Early detection and treatment can allow many children to develop language and speech skills without delay.

This change making solution overcame many of the traditional barriers to screening and made it possible to address problems before they have an irreversible impact. The fact that the service was both affordable and accessible meant children from poor communities had access to services that they normally wouldn’t.

Critical to the successful implementation of digital health solutions like hearScreen™ and Peek Acuity, is integration into the existing health system. Apart from providing funding, Innovation Edge also assisted the hearX Group in fine tuning the referral process – to ensure that children are supported by the broader health system one a hearing or vision problem is identified.

The Project Team
Peek Vision is a UK company that develops mobile eye screening applications and lens adaptors for testing vision

The hearX Group focus on affordable access to hearing care using smart digital health solutions that anyone can use, anywhere

The NEA Foundation is a public charity supported by contributions from educators’ dues, corporate sponsors, foundations, and others who support public education initiatives.