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How AI, Deep Learning and Machine Learning Are Changing Ophthalmology

November 19, 2019

Artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning and machine learning are advancing the worlds of health care and wellness like never before.

In one study, for instance, it was discovered that an AI model using algorithms and deep learning diagnosed breast cancer at a higher rate than 11 pathologists. And new technology is tracking the behaviors and interactions of people on their smartphones as a means toward early detection of depression and other mental health conditions.

The ophthalmology field is taking advantage of this type of advanced technology as well. From helping to verify disease diagnoses to paving a path toward much more efficient and objective ways to interpret images, AI, deep learning and machine learning are becoming more commonplace in ophthalmology.

Here are just a few ways this technology is changing the ophthalmology industry.

Making Ophthalmologists More Effective

In one of the first studies to examine how AI can improve physicians’ diagnostic accuracy, the Google AI research group discovered that physicians and algorithms working together are more effective than either alone. It expands on Google AI’s previous work, which showed that its algorithm works roughly as well as human experts when it comes to screening patients for diabetic retinopathy, a condition that puts more than 29 million Americans who have diabetes at risk for potential blindness. 

In this latest study, the researchers took their findings a step further. They wanted to find out if their algorithm could do more than just diagnose the disease. So they set out to create a new computer-assisted system that could “explain” the algorithm’s diagnosis. They discovered that this system improved the accuracy of both the algorithm and the ten ophthalmologists who took part in the study.

Taking Over Repetitive Tasks and Improving Time Efficiency

A significant portion of any practice includes repetitive activities, like refraction, tonometry, biomicroscopy, ophthalmoscopy and other data-gathering tasks. Some of these activities are amenable to deep learning. Others can be effectively accommodated through the merging of AI and robotics (the engineering science that provides mechanical, electrical and computer-driven AI and neural network machines to perform repetitive human tasks). Combining robotics with unsupervised, supervised and eventual reinforcement-AI deep learning for routine ophthalmic procedures is just around the corner.

Predicting Treatment Outcomes and the Likelihood of Needing Future Treatment

In Germany, researchers trained a deep convolutional artificial neural network to predict the need for patients’ anti-vascular endothelial growth factor injections, based on central retinal optical coherence tomography scans and their intravitreal injection records. When applied to a validation data set after training, the algorithm showed a prediction accuracy of 95.5 percent. It also showed a sensitivity of 90.1 percent and specificity of 96.2 percent.

Additionally, using structural and functional assessments during the initiation phase, researchers in Vienna evaluated the potential of “random forest” machine learning to predict best-corrected  visual acuity outcomes in patients receiving ranibizumab therapy for neovascular age-related macular degeneration. The model’s accuracy increased each month. At month three, final visual acuity outcomes could be predicted with an accuracy of R2=0.7.

Increased effectiveness of diagnoses, enhanced efficiency and predictive treatment outcomes are just a few of the many ways that AI, deep learning and machine learning are advancing the world of ophthalmology and the level of care provided to patients. However, this is only the beginning of what could be possible in the future. And ophthalmologists should stand ready to not just use this technology, but to collaboratively work with it as if it’s a part of their teams, rather than simply another tool.

At OCLI, when it comes to helping our patients maintain healthy eyes, we’re willing to embrace any type of technology or advancement that can aid us in this mission.

For all your eye care needs, from routine vision screenings to treatment for dry eyes, to LASIK vision correction to cataract surgery, we’re your one-stop-shop for the most technologically advanced and friendliest eye care in the New Jersey area! Contact us for an appointment today!

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