New app brings virtual eye care to Bangladesh

ByMartha R. Camara

Oct 28, 2022

Purnashree (left) and Pradipta Chowdhury have created an app to bring telehealth to ophthalmologists, while providing training and tracking features for eye care. Credit: University of Toronto

The brother-sister duo startup has teamed up with one of Bangladesh’s largest eye hospitals in a bid to make eye doctor visits completely virtual.

Pradipta and Purnashree Chowdhury, who come from a family of ophthalmologists, created the EyeBuddy app to offer the eye screenings and eye tests used in most exams.

“We’re trying to create a whole ecosystem where a patient sitting at home can call an eye doctor,” says Pradipta, who graduated from the University of Toronto Scarborough last year and was recently accepted into medical school. “Anyone can see a doctor 24/7 for immediate and certain eye problems.”

The app will also bring telehealth to ophthalmologists in the coming months, linking patients in Bangladesh with ophthalmologists at a major eye care hospital.

“In developing countries, transportation is a big problem. The best hospitals cannot provide services in remote areas,” says Pradipta, who aspires to become an ophthalmologist like his father. “But we can have a doctor in the palm of our hands.”

The siblings work to ensure Bangladesh is just the first of many partnerships with hospitals around the world as their start-up continues to grow from The Hub, the University’s entrepreneurial incubator of Scarborough.

“EyeBuddy is moving quite quickly with the full support of the community, the government and several leading doctors in Bangladesh,” says Gray Graffam, former director of The Hub. “They are connected to something that can go beyond Bangladesh and their current relationship.”

For now, the rest of the world can access EyeBuddy’s other features, which aim to make eye care fun. Daily eye tests inform users of potential early vision loss and eye conditions while tracking the progress of each eye. The app also features over 50 exercises that train all 12 eye muscles, and users can customize their workout for conditions like dry eye, lazy eye, and macular degeneration. They can also earn points, unlock milestones, and connect with others on the platform.

“It can be very depressing to know that you have an eye disease or vision loss,” Pradipta says. “We try to build a huge community around people with similar eye conditions who can support each other.”

This community is growing rapidly. The app has over 17,000 subscribers and nearly 2,000 daily visitors from almost every continent. Although they designed EyeBuddy to appeal to all ages, the siblings also created a personalized version for kids with more colors and games and fewer medical terms. They hope to eventually roll it out to schools across Canada.

Purnashree says childhood is a crucial period for eye development; this is also the time when children can begin to adjust to eye conditions instead of asking for help.

“Early detection would greatly relieve the financial burden on families. If a disease is chronic, the treatment is long-term,” says Purnashree, who is a doctor in Bangladesh and is seeking his license to practice in Canada. “With many conditions, we can avoid spending unnecessarily, if we can just get it back early.”

The Chowdhurys saw encouraging results after testing EyeBuddy in elementary schools. A teacher reported students playing with the app, uninvited, in the middle of class. A student found out he was colorblind through EyeBuddy and then followed the app’s recommendation to see an eye doctor.

“Health care is complicated. We wanted to create a user-friendly yet science-based app so people could be aware of their eye health and protect their eyes in a way that wasn’t boring,” says Pradipta,

Pradipta and Purnashree’s father is the director of a major eye hospital in Bangladesh. As Pradipta prepares to attend medical school in the UK, he and his sister say they are happy that the app keeps them in touch with each other and with their father, who has been on the back of the school. company in an advisory role.

“Through this app, we have a purpose that unites us,” Purnashree says.

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Provided by University of Toronto

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