Faculty, students help large India eye hospital launch outcomes survey

A new survey for cataract surgery patients in India is set for implementation after being developed and tested with the help of Michigan Medicine students and faculty.

Students Josiah Smiley, Hong Gam-Le, and Charlie Frank, along with Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Joshua Ehrlich, published a recent paper along with their colleagues in India describing how they conceived and tested a short survey to more effectively measure patient-reported outcomes for those undergoing cataract procedures at India’s Aravind Eye Care System.

Their new survey, which evaluates patients’ ability to do everyday things like climb a flight of stairs or recognize familiar faces, is described in the January edition of Health and Quality of Life Outcomes. What’s more, it is being planned for broad implementation following the implementation of a new electronic health record system rollout there.

From right: UMMS students Josiah Smiley and Charle Frank worked with Asst. Professor of Ophthalmology Joshua Ehrlich to develop and pilot a new point-of-care survey for cataract surgery patients at India's Aravind Eye Care Center. The team stands for picture with Dr. Aravind Srinivasan, the center's namesake, and his son Arya.

“Our pilot was successful enough that they plan to roll it out to patients. It is gratifying as a physician to work on research with such immediate and practical implications for patients,” said Ehrlich, who launched the project with partners in India a few years ago.

Implementing the questionnaire to patients at Aravind will not only give physicians more complete outcomes data, but also help researchers conduct more accurate quality of life for future research studies.

Aravind, in Madurai, in southern India, is regarded around the world for its highly efficient and highly effective cataract surgery model, performing more than 200,000 procedures each year. Such a busy clinical pace leaves little time for lengthy point-of-care assessments. Ehrlich and his colleagues took a proven 28-item assessment and whittled it down to just 11 vital questions that still proved to comprise a valid and reliable instrument. The three students administered the survey to more than 200 patients during a six-week visit to India in 2016, experiences that were funded by Global REACH and the Student Biomedical Research Program.

For Josiah Smiley, now an M4, the work resulted in conference poster presentations and now his first-ever publication

“For me, it’s exciting to see this published because I can point to parts of the manuscript and say ‘I did that!’” he said. “But the fact that they are continuing to build on our work and getting set to use the survey on a regular basis is even more rewarding.”