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How Doctors Are Using AI to Help Prevent Blindness

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After years of considering the future of artificial intelligence (AI), researchers have made inroads in using technology to find practical solutions to problems in a variety of fields. This includes healthcare, which, arguably, has the most near-term potential to impact the quality of life for many individuals.

Ohio-based Kettering Health has recently announced new efforts to as a way to actually prevent blindness caused by diabetic retinopathy — the leading cause of preventable blindness in working-age people.

Diabetic retinopathy is caused by uncontrolled blood sugar levels in people with either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Affected individuals experience retinal tissue damage that typically is only observable with annual eye doctor visits. The problem is that around 40% of individuals last year said they hadn’t had an eye exam in more than a year, and 10% said they hadn’t in more than five years. 

Dr. Dennis Anthony, a medicine physician at Kettering Physician Network’s Walden Ponds Primary Care, has led the charge with Kettering on using tech to change the game. He says it’s been a challenge to get these appointments with eyecare providers scheduled, which is why he’s worked to push the use of AI.

According to a published in the medical journal , “there has been a considerable increase in the use of AI techniques for medical imaging, from processing to interpretation.” In ophthalmology, some tests utilize common imaging techniques and then add the AI layer for diagnosis and grading based on the technology’s ability to observe markers of the disease.

This method enables primary care physicians to use artificial intelligence image assessment to determine if a patient needs care from an ophthalmologist, streamlining care and reducing the need for additional appointments. The hope is that catching these cases early means treatment before the patient’s condition has deteriorated to the point where vision is compromised.

 

Image Credit: TIU

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