Vision centres are small, permanent facilities set up to extend eye care service delivery to remote and rural communities, with the objective of increasing the uptake of comprehensive primary eye care. Aravinds Vision Centres offer innovative internet-based information technology (IT) that allows patients in rural areas to be remotely diagnosed by ophthalmologists at the base hospital. Via high-speed wireless video-conferencing, doctors can consult with hundreds of rural patients per day, providing high quality eye care while eliminating the need for patients to travel to hospital (unless more advanced treatment is needed).
Concept of Vision Centre
The model of vision centre is envisaged by the Vision 2020 The Right to Sight, a global initiative of International Agency of Prevention of Blindness (IAPB a global machinery working across the world for the prevention of avoidable blindness). IAPB has unveiled four tier pyramid model to provide eye care for the needy population where vision centres are at the primary level. Aligning with this initiative, Government of India is planning to set up at least 20,000 vision centres across the country. For providing basic eye care services on a permanent basis in villages Aravind has established more than 40 IT enabled Vision Centres providing telemedicine facility in various districts of Tamil Nadu.
The objective of the vision centres are to
Provide comprehensive care by integrating information technology effectively that would facilitate providing quality care at the doorsteps of the rural population.
Collaborate with the community and promote eye health education and create awareness proactively.
Change the health seeking behaviour of the community and thereby slowly move away from camps to a sustainable centre based approach.
Each vision centre will cover a population of about 45,000 - 50,000.
Impact of Vision Centres
Researches show that permanent eye care facilities in rural areas motivate people to seek earlier treatment for vision problems, allowing them to reintegrate back into the workforce instead of becoming visually impaired. This new pattern of proactively seeking eye care before it is too late makes the role of vision centres even more crucial in an eye care institutions mix of outreach initiatives.
These centres are equipped with basic ophthalmic equipment like Slit Lamp, Streak Retinoscope, Direct Ophthalmoscope, Trial sets, SchiotzTonometer, Basic sterilizers, BP apparatus and 90D Lens and a computer with a digital camera (in the place of webcam) and internet connectivity. These centres are run by well trained ophthalmic technician who performs slit lamp examination, refraction, treating minor ailments like foreign body removal, counselling etc. Any vision centre is linked with nearby Aravind base hospital for consultation and also to access secondary or tertiary level eye care.
All the patients examined at the vision centre are consulted with the ophthalmologist at Aravind Eye Hospital who will interact with patients as well. Patients who require procedural intervention are asked to come to the hospital. These vision centres work closely with the community through community workers who create awareness about the eye problems in the community. In addition to the vision centre technician, a coordinator is posted to look after non-clinical activities such as registration, maintenance of records, statistics and interaction with various stakeholders like outreach manager, outreach organizer and field workers.