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Radiologists watch out – Artificial Intelligence is coming

Posted Monday, April 23, 2018 by Tyler Goldberg-Hoss

Recently the FDA approved the marketing of a device that uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to screen patients for the eye disease diabetic retinopathy.

The software, called IDx-DR, uses AI to analyze images taken of the retina. It is marketed toward health care professionals such as primary care doctors who may not normally be involved in the eye care of their patients.

Someone in the office takes a picture of the retina with a special camera. Then the images are uploaded to a server where the IDx-DR software is installed. Then IDx-DR does it’s thing. First, it determines whether the images are good enough quality to analyze. Next, if the images are good enough, it analyzes them, producing one of two results: either (1) “more than mild diabetic retinopathy detected: refer to an eye care professional” or (2) “negative for more than mild diabetic retinopathy; rescreen in 12 months.”

IDx-DR is not perfect: in the FDA study, it correctly identified more than mild diabetic retinopathy 87.4% of the time, and correctly identified those patients without more than mild diabetic retinopathy 89.5% of the time. However, considering how diabetic is the most common cause of vision loss among diabetics in the US, early detection of disease is important in halting its progress, and about ½ of all diabetics don’t see their eye doctors on a yearly basis. The software promises to improve detection and prevent vision loss for a significant number of people.

As an attorney who handles claims against medical providers, it will be important for any such provider to make sure each patient is appropriate for the screening software (some patients, such as those with underlying eye conditions, should not be screened with IDx-DR). And patients should be aware that the software is not perfect; they should go to their eye doctor if they begin having any vision symptoms.

Although this is a baby step in terms of using AI to screen for abnormalities in medical imaging, it does not take much effort to imagine AI interpreting x-rays and other imaging in the future. How long will it be before we are able to use our smartphones to take pictures of our bodies and allow AI to diagnose us?

You can read the FDA release here to learn more:

FDA permits marketing of artificial intelligence-based device to detect certain diabetes-related eye problems

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