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Leading Thoughts

March 13, 2017
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SXSW: Flying Eye Hospital Provides Global Care, Training

Guest post by Emily Williams, Digital Strategist

There are 285 million blind or visually impaired people in the world. Yet, four in five of them suffer from conditions that are preventable or curable.

In a SXSW panel titled “Fighting Blindness with Tech Innovation and Access,” we learned how Orbis International, a non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to saving sight worldwide, uses its Flying Eye Hospital to not only provide high quality eye care and train local medical staff in developing countries, but to also provide education from the aircraft to virtually all corners of the globe.


“Blindness doesn’t just affect one person – it affects the entire family. Children don’t have the opportunity to grow and learn, and then communities remain in poverty,” said Dr. Daniel Neely, Professor of Ophthalmology at Indiana University and a volunteer of Orbis International.

Orbis International’s Flying Eye Hospital has been custom designed to offer medical technology and training to the developing world, and it is equipped with the tools the medical team needs to provide hands-on training to local eye care professionals in order for them to restore sight for patients in their own countries. Additionally, it features 3D technology and live broadcast capabilities enabling Orbis, with the help of volunteers, to train more doctors, nurses and healthcare professionals in areas where there is little access to professional development.

Dr. Danny Haddad, Chief of Program at Orbis International, noted that Orbis’ primary mission with the Flying Eye Hospital is to work with developing countries to create long-term eye care systems that are sustainable, affordable and accessible, creating workable solutions to the tragedy of blindness in those countries and ultimately restoring sight.

When asked about efforts in war zones and other areas of conflict, Dr. Neely noted that while the Flying Eye Hospital does not fly directly into those areas, the 3D technology and broadcast capabilities of the aircraft help train local medical professionals to provide quality eye care to those underserved populations. “That’s the power of telemedicine – experts at your fingertips.”

Telemedicine is a rapidly expanding area of healthcare service delivery that continues to show real promise, and Orbis has leveraged the communication technology for a profound impact on global public health. The evolution of this technology will only continue to grow and expand into other areas of healthcare, and we’re excited to see how this technology can be applied to help eliminate other preventable diseases and health conditions.

Want to tour the Orbis International Flying Eye Hospital? Click here – and be sure to get the full experience using a VR headset.

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