Two years ago, Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and DeepMind Health came together to announce a 5-year partnership to explore whether artificial intelligence (AI) technology could help clinicians improve care for patients.
Researchers from Moorfields and the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology have had a recent breakthrough in this research, published in Nature Medicine, which describes how machine learning technology has been successfully trained on thousands of historic depersonalized eye scans to identify signs of eye disease and recommend how patients should be referred for care.
The AI system can recommend the correct referral decision for over 50 eye diseases with 94% accuracy, matching world-leading eye experts. It is hoped that the technology could revolutionize the way professionals carry out eye tests, allowing them to spot conditions earlier and prioritize patients with the most serious eye diseases before irreversible damage sets in.
“The number of eye scans we’re performing is growing at a pace much faster than human experts are able to interpret them,” Dr. Pearse Keane, consultant ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and NIHR Clinician Scientist at the UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, said in a university news release. “There is a risk that this may cause delays in the diagnosis and treatment of sight-threatening diseases, which can be devastating for patients.”
“The AI technology we’re developing is designed to prioritize patients who need to be seen and treated urgently by a doctor or eye care professional. If we can diagnose and treat eye conditions early, it gives us the best chance of saving people’s sight. With further research it could lead to greater consistency and quality of care for patients with eye problems in the future,” Dr. Keane said. “The results of this pioneering research with DeepMind are very exciting and demonstrate the potential sight-saving impact AI could have for patients. I am in no doubt that AI has a vital role to play in the future of healthcare, particularly when it comes to training and helping medical professionals so that patients benefit from vital treatment earlier than might previously have been possible. This shows the transformative research than can be carried out in the UK combining world leading industry and NIHR/NHS hospital/university partnerships,” he said.
Robert Dufton, chief executive at Moorfields Eye Charity, said: “The need for treatment for eye diseases is forecast to grow, in part because people are living longer, far beyond our ability to meet the demand using current practice. Artificial intelligence is showing the potential to transform the speed at which diseases can be diagnosed and treatments suggested, making the best use of the limited time of clinicians. AI will also help our understanding of sight loss. Moorfields Eye Charity is proud to have funded equipment which underpins Dr. Pearse Keane’s work as part of our program of philanthropic support in pioneering researchers.”