February 29, 2016

Meet Dr. Jen Simonson

Dr. Jen Simonson (OD, FCOVD) of Boulder (CO) has developed a comprehensive 3D vision testing tool for both in-clinic and home practice use that runs on the iPad. Working with Gerull Labs, Dr. Simonson developed the free OPTO app. OPTO is currently in limited use in the U.S., England, Spain, Belgium, Greece, Australia and New Zealand. OPTO uses anaglyph or side-by-side 3D to both diagnose and treat a variety of vision anomalies. 
Dr. Jen Simonson, OD, FCOVD
These vision anomalies can affect 5-15% of the population. These vision issues limit our quality of life, the learning success of students, or the career choices of adults, if not treated. Using the OPTO app, Simonson notes: “We can detect if you cannot see 3D; we can measure how small of 3D you can see”, adding “we can quickly see if you need a more comprehensive eye exam.” (Incidentally,  Dr. Simonson was well on her way to diagnosing me in minutes, discovering my own amblylopia with her iPad app, even though I had not shared my own vision issue problems with her.) From the answers provided by the patient using the app, Dr. Simonson can correctly identify which eyes are being used to see and if one eye is experiencing suppression. Dr. Simonson explains in lay terms: “In vision therapy, we work on tracking, focusing, and eye teaming (when both eyes align and look at the same place). We can change the size of the target to see how much is suppressed; and determine whether central or peripheral vision is being suppressed. Even if the patient is too young to read or cannot speak English, that patient can still touch or point”, Simonson beams.

By developing her app on a mobile device, Dr. Simonson effectively leaps over some of many hurdles faced in currently diagnosing and treating vision disorders. The app is easy to administer, get lots of good information quickly, and provides valid diagnostic testing that is fun for kids to do, at multiple ages. Vision testing isn’t like it used to be: with Opto, children can be presented with a magnificently rendered stereo 3D dog and asked to pet the nose of the dog. What the children does at that moment—and where they stroke the dog (or cat)—informs the doctor how much 3D these children can see, even if they cannot verbalize. Older children and adults can even use a stylus for certain advanced tests.

Making this diagnostic and treatment device work perfectly across many different devices is a long term goal for Dr. Simonson. For now, it is easier to use only the iPad for clinical testing accuracy. Although many of her medical colleagues already like what they see in Opto, Dr. Simonson has launched a lengthy clinical testing trial (health review boards require rigorous clinical testing). The clinical trials are called VIVID (Validation of iPad Vision Diagnostics) and are being conducted in collaboration with The Ohio State University. After clinical testing, the plan is to take the app nationwide. 

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