Published in Retina

Ukraine-Based Altris AI Continues Development Despite War

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7 min read
Altris Education OCT, a free mobile app, aims to increase excellence in optical coherence tomography interpretation and decrease diagnostic mistakes in ophthalmology. Learn more about this Ukrainian company and how you can help them meet their mission.
Ukraine-Based Altris AI Continues Development Despite War
When Russia invaded Ukraine, our clinic, Expert Ophthalmology in Kyiv, was immediately closed and our team switched to working remotely from western Ukraine and abroad on Altris Education OCT. Altris Education OCT is a free mobile application for ophthalmologists and optometrists in which users learn to analyze OCT scans and find pathologies and pathological signs interactively. The application was created by practicing retina experts who are the R&D team of Altris as well as doctors at Expert Ophthalmology.
Image 1: Altris Education OCT
As the owner of the clinic and the CMO of Altris, I decided to stay in Kyiv and coordinate the remote work.
Image 2: Maria Znamenska, MD and owner of Altris AI.
Here is the story of the educational mobile application that helps us to continue working even during the war.

How Altris Education OCT began

The idea of Altris Education OCT was shaped during EURETINA 2019 when one of our booth visitors said he would gladly substitute his Facebook feed with the feed filled with the OCT scans interpretation. He wanted to interact with OCT scans highlighting different pathologies and learn in such a way. (I hope that man will read this article!)
At that moment, we decided to create Altris Education OCT, which could provide at least 50,000 ophthalmologists and optometrists with a modern and interactive means for education. Altris Education OCT has become one of the main products of Altris. Inc, a MedTech startup that applies AI technologies to OCT interpretation.
After 10 years of teaching ophthalmology at the National Medical Academy of Postgraduate Education in Kyiv and 17 years of experience in OCT diagnostics, I know that traditional educational methods do not always resonate with a new generation of optometrists and ophthalmologists. My team at the clinic has worked on several clinical trials and routine medical practice as well as the development of many webinars and educational courses for ophthalmologists from the СIS region on medical retina, OCT, OCT-angiography, neuro-ophthalmology, uveitis, optometry, and others.
Image 3: Dr. Znamenska in classroom.
Despite OCT devices becoming more available for clinics and optometry businesses, many eyecare specialists still make mistakes when interpreting OCT scans. These observations led me to the idea of a new approach to teaching OCT scan interpretation.

The war demanded adaptation

That was before Russia invaded Ukraine. When the war started, we were forced to close the clinic immediately. Kyiv was the main target of the Russian army, which is why the city was heavily shelled. People had to either spend days and nights in the bomb shelters or get evacuated.
In my clinic, all employees are women, and all of them are high-level specialists (retina experts, glaucoma, neuro-ophthalmology, genetics, etc.). Women are especially affected by any war, since they are responsible for themselves and for their children. When the invasion started, the employees of the clinic had to leave Kyiv for safety reasons; some of them moved to western Ukraine, and others went abroad.
Image 4: The staff of Altris Education OCT
Another problem was related to the cooperation with Russian colleagues. More than 2000 students were Russian optometrists and ophthalmologists, and most of them were Altris Education OCT active users. However, we stopped the communication and cooperation with them immediately, as they failed to denounce the war openly...or even supported it.
The situation was dramatic, but we decided to make lemonade out of lemons. We concentrated on cooperation with European and North American regions. Optometrists and ophthalmologists have different job requirements in different countries, so they need specific educational content, which is why we want more eyecare specialists from all over the world to test the Altris Education OCT app and leave us feedback.
Now, as we are preparing to release the next upgraded version, this data is essential for us. It is simply impossible to hire a quality assurance specialist who would test the app and leave meaningful feedback on it: only real ophthalmologists and optometrists can do it!

Altris Education OCT provides a chance to work remotely

As any responsible employer, I wanted to provide my personnel with the possibility to work at any cost. Luckily, we had such an opportunity, thanks to Altris Education OCT. Creating graphical annotation of pathologies on OCT sсans was a part of the work for some of my employees before the war, but it became everyone’s primary job now.
Image 6: Ophthalmologists at work on Altris Education OCT.
The quality of the app increases with each scan; that is why, in this regard, the sky is the limit for us. More than that, each scan is checked by two different specialists to exclude possible human errors.
Today, the work on the application for my employees is the only source of income; however, they can work as much as they can from any part of the world. Before the war started, we decided to launch the second version of the app, and the war can’t stop us now—the work on Altris Education OCT keeps us going during these dark days.

Here are several features that will be in the second version:

  • OCT scans will be grouped in folders depending on the pathologies. Thus, every ophthalmologist/optometrist will be able to learn about the pathology he/she is interested in.
  • Users’ behavior will be monitored, and personalized tests for each user will be created. For instance, if a specialist could not detect CRAO, retinitis pigmentosa, or vitelliform dystrophy several times correctly in the tests, he/she will have more questions about these pathologies.
  • There will be more OCT scans, of course.
  • We also plan to add activities with CME credits to the application.
  • The second version will be gamified.
  • There will be search and zoom features.

How you can help Altris Education OCT succeed

Though we already have 6,000 users in the app, it’s not enough for adequate diverse testing in terms of geography, gender, age, user behavior, etc.
To make this app truly functional we need more real users (optometrists and ophthalmologists) from different countries—right now. We want to understand the behavior of users, and we need to learn about possible bugs and subject-related improvements before the release.
To help us accomplish these goals, follow our links to iOS and Android versions. It is absolutely free! We collect the feedback on the app in this form.

In closing

The war is a horrific event, but it can't stop us from bringing bright ideas to life. We aim to increase the number of eyecare specialists with excellent OCT interpretation skills and decrease the number of diagnostic mistakes in ophthalmology.
And, of course, we would love to support Ukrainian ophthalmologists from our team during this terrible war.
Maria Znamenska, MD, PhD
About Maria Znamenska, MD, PhD

Maria Znamenska, MD, PhD is an associate professor of ophthalmology and a Chief Medical Officer of Altris, an ophthalmology MedTech startup. She also has an ophthalmology clinic in Kyiv, Ukraine, where she lives and works.

Maria Znamenska, MD, PhD
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