26th January 2021
DemDx receives funding to help transform ophthalmology services in Rwanda
Healthcare company DemDx has received funding from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) to assess the feasibility of its medically-certified, AI powered clinical reasoning tool, to improve eye services in Rwanda.
The project, expected to run to April 2021, will be run in partnership with The University of Rwanda and Proportion, a global human-centred design agency.
The tool supports the practitioner during a patient’s clinical assessment. It uses a combination of a database built by world-leading doctors and AI to tell the user whether a patient needs urgent attention from a doctor or a less urgent referral. This enables doctors’ time to be used more efficiently and effectively, allowing them to focus on the most critical patients who may need specialist eye care, thereby reducing instances of preventable visual impairment.
The tool will be assessed by 50 practitioners in different clinical settings, including clinical training settings in large cities, community clinics and county hospitals.
In Rwanda, there are currently only 16 ophthalmologists and 140 Ophthalmic Clinical Officers that serve the 12.3 million population – the equivalent to one ophthalmologist treating over 700,000 people, compared to 1:100,000 in the EU. Staff shortages are a real threat to the delivery and quality of clinical care, with life-threatening diseases at risk of late diagnosis, when treatments are both less effective and more expensive and result in unnecessary emergency admissions. The DemDx tool will support increased frontline clinical responsibility, giving nurses and optometrists the ability to triage effectively.
Dr. Mariane Melo, Medical Director of DemDx, commented: “We are very excited to start this impactful study and help to improve vision at scale in a country that has significant levels of treatable and preventable vision loss. Training healthcare professionals and providing quality eye services is the longstanding challenge of lower and middle-income countries with restricted budgets. This feasibility study will allow us to adapt our platform to local needs, and, if the project is successful, the platform could be applied to other countries.”
Fiston Kitema, Assistant Lecturer at the University of Rwanda, said: “The DemDx tool has the potential to contribute to the improved quality of the eye care practices here in Rwanda. This feasibility study will tailor the tool to our specific needs, and we hope to see great improvements in our community ophthalmology services in doing so.”
The GCRF is investing up to £9.3 million in prototype stage projects, including DemDx, with the potential to transform lives in developing countries. The aim of this competition is to find transformative commercial solutions that address societal challenges, recognised by the UN Sustainable Development Goals.