Artificial intelligence, which has made its presence felt in such areas as robotics, smart assistants and chatbots, is increasingly becoming a factor in the healthcare field in general and the field of ophthalmology in particular. Innovations are expanding treatment options and leading to better outcomes.

Dr. Konstantinos Balaskas, director of the Moorfields Ophthalmic Reading Centre and Clinical AI Lab at Moorfields Eye Hospital in London, told Healthtech Magazine that AI is among the technologies that “have the potential to fundamentally transform eye care,” given the fact that AI algorithms can predict the possibility that a patient might develop a condition such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy or another eye-related issue. These systems can also help accurately analyze and interpret a variety of eye scans to monitor treatments that are being used regularly.

Dr. T.Y. Alvin Liu, assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Johns Hopkins Medicine Wilmer Eye Institute and director of the Wilmer Precision Ophthalmology Center of Excellence, echoed Balaskas, telling Healthtech that “AI enables the screening of ophthalmic diseases at scale and more efficiently.”

Another recent example of the manner in which AI will impact ophthalmology came on Dec. 1, 2022, when RetinAI Medical AG announced on Dec. 1, 2022 the launch of Discovery CORE, which through its AI models will “accelerate data analysis and help clinical and academic researchers collaborate more efficiently in real time with their peers on medical and imaging datasets,” according to a news release.

Ophthalmology Times took note of the new technology’s ability to measure retinal fluid volume and layer thickness, as well as the manner in which data is collected and integrated. In addition, that website quoted the news release as saying that CORE “can be used to assess disease endpoints at scale, jump-start the building of registries and real-world evidence datasets, and help with shared workflows to evaluate data, train physicians and establish best practices within the clinic.”

Put simply, there are specific algorithms that a computer or machine will use to discern certain patterns. It takes a lot of data for this process to become accurate. In fact, thousands of concrete examples may be needed in order for this learning process to take place. The data has to be completely clear. A human might be able to consider the context of a scenario, while AI isn’t able to read between the lines to come up with a solution or diagnosis.

Another area in which AI has impacted ophthalmology is that of telehealth, a technology that played a key role in all areas of healthcare during the pandemic, and will likely continue to be prominent as systems and facilities seek to meet the needs of an again population. A March 2022 study noted the implementation of teleophthalmology in remote areas of Australia, as well as the state of Washington, and how “recent advancements in artificial intelligence (AI)” go a long way toward enabling “more equitable service provision in under-resourced settings.” 

The bottom line is that as artificial intelligence continues to make its presence felt in the field of ophthalmology, clinicians will go on to detect certain conditions like diabetic retinopathy and age-related macular degeneration. When early intervention is provided, this can improve a patient’s ability to retain their vision and their quality of life. The eye is a very complex part of the body, and it’s ideal to have new automated tools on hand that can diagnose and treat ocular conditions. It appears that AI will continue to accelerate data analysis to help clinicians and researchers revolutionize ophthalmology.