Empowering the Visually Impaired With Accurate Medication Scanning

Sanofi launched the Theia® app integrating Scandit Barcode Scanner SDK to enable the visually impaired to take their medication with greater autonomy and safety. In the first month alone, the app was downloaded over 600 times giving access to vital drug information.

The scanning engine is a vital component of our app, and with Scandit Smart Data Capture, we have delivered a reliable solution that is having a positive impact for the blind and visually impaired.
Brahim Azmi, Digital Innovation Product Owner, Sanofi

Challenge

Employing more than 100,000 people in 100 countries across the world, French multinational Sanofi has a proud history of research, development, and manufacture of life-saving healthcare solutions, vaccines and medicines since 1973, and today is the fourth-largest pharmaceutical company in the world.

In 2019, Sanofi conducted an internal competition that gave employees the incentive to create a solution that addressed a key global health challenge. Entries were submitted by a number of employees from the Sanofi Global Medical team and thirteen finalists were shortlisted to present their ideas to a panel at Sanofi’s global headquarters.

The winning idea addressed a key challenge specifically for the blind and visually impaired. With more than 1.7m citizens in France suffering from visual impairment or blindness, and with only 12% of that number able to read braille, there was concern that the identification of prescribed drugs and medicines from labels was difficult or impossible to read in such small print. This could lead to the wrong drugs being consumed or even the consumption of an incorrect dosage which could have serious implications for the user.

Sanofi barcode scanning

To solve this, Sanofi were able to develop the idea into a fully functioning mobile device app they named Theia®. The app can be downloaded onto any iOS or Android device. By utilizing the smartphone camera, users can scan the barcode on the medication packaging and receive relevant information from a recognized reference database of more than 13,000 health products. Read out aloud in their native language and displayed in large font on the device’s screen, information including its name, description, batch, dosage, any warnings and expiry date. For the blind and visually impaired, this was a revelation.

However, during trials of the app, it was clear that the existing scanning technology was cumbersome and difficult to use, requiring a precise placement of the barcode in the camera lens. For the blind and visually impaired, this represented a major challenge as users were unable to see if the barcode was correctly aligned leading to frustration. In some cases, the existing scanning technology could not read the barcode in low light conditions or if the barcode was damaged.

Solution

Sanofi embarked on finding a solution that offered speed, accuracy and the intelligence needed to deliver Theia® to market.

Sanofi discovered Scandit and started trials. Integrating Scandit Barcode Scanner SDK was quick and easy and it made an immediate impact by outperforming expectations

Brahim Azmi, Digital Innovation Product Owner at Sanofi says, “As soon as we had integrated Scandit Smart Data Capture technology into our app, we could see it was already proving a success. It didn’t matter what angle the barcode was presented, as long as it met the camera, the scan was instant, even in poor lighting conditions.”

“For the blind and visually impaired, this makes a massive difference and eliminates a huge degree of frustration we had with the previous scanning technology. That gives the user real empowerment and independence.”

With the confidence the app was functioning how Sanofi had envisioned, it was launched, free of charge, on December 3rd 2021 to coincide with the International Day of Persons with Disabilities – an international observance promoted by the United Nations.

Results

User sentiment was immediately very positive with the app scoring 4 out of 5 in the Apple Store and 4.8 out of 5 in the Google Play store, and reviews praising the team behind the idea including “the app is very useful on a daily basis”, “very useful and meets a real need for the blind,” and “I love this app as I can now easily identify my drugs!” One user has even created a video reviewing Theia® positively on YouTubeTM.

Over 3,000 drugs were scanned in the first month alone enabling over 2,500 drug leaflets to be read aloud to users. No matter what smartphone people were using, the app was able to utilize Scandit’s barcode scanning technology and provide an accurate and efficient scanning solution, solving a critical medical challenge for the visually impaired.

Olivier Bogillot, President of Sanofi France, says, “This free application contributes in a concrete way to the proper use of medicines, and to the empowerment of blind or visually impaired patients. It is directly consistent with Sanofi’s commitment to a more inclusive society.”

Azmi concludes, “The scanning engine is a vital component of our app, and with Scandit technology, we have delivered a reliable solution that is having a positive impact for the blind and visually impaired.”

Theia® was developed by Sanofi and the accessibility unit of the Valentin Haüy association with the support of Vidal, for information extracted from the patient information sheet for medicines on the French market and Cognizant for technical development.

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