How Samsung is repurposing its old Galaxy phones and turning them into medical cameras

The shortage of ophthalmologists in rural areas and the slow pace of profit-sharing highlight the difficulty in accessing primary health care in these parts of India. However, South Korean giant Samsung believes that a smartphone can increase access to quality healthcare and increase awareness and knowledge of eye health in far-flung areas of the country.

The solution to the problem that Samsung proposes is to upgrade older Galaxy smartphones to run the Eyelike handheld fundus camera, which attaches to a lens attachment to allow for improved fundus diagnosis. The device then uses an artificial intelligence (AI) system to process the images it receives, and then sends them to an app that collects patient data and suggests the next course of action.

“The Galaxy Upcycling program not only gives a new life to some of our older Galaxy smartphones by converting them into useful devices, but they can also be used as diagnostic cameras to screen patients for conditions like diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration investigate. said Mohan Rao Goli, Corporate VP and CTO, Samsung Research Institute, Bengaluru (SRI-B). on the occasion of World Sight Day.

The program was first introduced by Samsung in South Korea in 2017. Since then, Samsung has expanded its Galaxy upcycling program to six countries, including India. The world’s leading smartphone maker has partnered with the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB), Yonsei University Health System (YUHS) in Korea and LabSD for the Galaxy Upcycling program.

Instead of turning an old smartphone into e-waste, Samsung uses these devices to detect and diagnose eye diseases. (Image credit: Samsung)

According to Goli, its partners are supplying the handheld lens, while Samsung is offering its older Galaxy smartphones with built-in software. Samsung’s Bengaluru R&D Institute helped develop the fundus imaging mechanism and AI-based algorithms for the camera.

“When you connect the lens attachment for an advanced fundus diagnosis while using the smartphone to capture the images. The Galaxy device then uses AI algorithms and analyzes the images to diagnose eye conditions. The data captured by the phone is then synced to the mobile app, which suggests whether the patient needs further treatment,” Goli explains how smartphone-based fundus imaging works.

In India, Samsung has partnered with four eye hospitals to run the Galaxy Upcycling program, which includes Sitapur Eye Hospital in Sitapur, Uttar Pradesh, Aravind Eye Hospital in Pondicherry, Guruhasti Chikitsalya in Jodhpur, Rajasthan and Dr. Shroff’s Charity Eye Hospital in New Delhi. So far, the company has recycled 200 used Galaxy smartphones and distributed Eyelike fundus cameras to its partners in India. Samsung aims to screen 150,000 people in India for eye diseases using Eyelike’s fundus cameras by the end of 2023.

“Repurposing old smartphones into medical diagnostic cameras fills the missing link between the last man and the healthcare provider,” says Dr. Madhu Bhadauria, CMO of Sitapur Eye Hospital, and describes how a smartphone can help break down these barriers and bring quality eye care to many more people in rural parts of the country at a fraction of the cost. According to Bhadauria, the cost of traditional fundus imaging devices starts at Rs 10,000 and goes up to Rs. 60,000.

A Galaxy phone repurposed as a medical device is actively used by four eye clinics in India. (Image credit: Samsung)

Bhadauria says early diagnosis and treatment reduce the risk of severe vision problems. Having fundus images from old smartphones means patients can be scanned on a large scale, but it also saves a lot of costs and only those people who need comprehensive care are referred to a doctor.

“An image taken with a Samsung phone goes to a senior optometrist who works in the field, an image goes to the clinician and an image goes to AI. These images are evaluated at different levels and then finally analyzed how effective the AI ​​component is,” explains Bhadauria.

She says it takes a week’s training for a non-technical person to understand how this smartphone-based fundus camera works.

“I wouldn’t say the images are as good as with traditional devices that take fundus images, but the quality is adequate for a patient who is in a rural area and does not have access to quality eye care. This at least ensures that the patients are diagnosed in time and that we can prevent them from going blind,” says Bhadauria when asked how comparable the images with the smartphone-based fundus camera are compared to sophisticated medical cameras.

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