Diabetes is a growing problem in the world. Correspondingly, Diabetic Retinopathy (DR), also known as diabetic eye disease (DED), which causes vision loss and even blindness in adults, is on the rise as well. This is particularly evident in India, which, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, will have an estimated 98 million cases by 2030. Using the seemingly miraculous powers of modern medicine intertwined with state-of-the-art technology, the Sankara Eye Foundation, and Leben Care, in conjunction with Intel, have designed what they call a “retina risk assessment,” using AI to screen patients for the disease.
How using machine learning can save eyes
On March 10, Sankara, an Indian nonprofit dedicated to bringing eye care to those who need it most, and Singapore-based Leben, a retinal software company, announced their combined efforts to accomplish this. This technology, specifically named Netra.AI, is, according to Intel, a “cloud-based artificial intelligence (AI) solution (that is) powered by Intel technology and uses deep learning to identify retinal conditions in a short span of time with the accuracy level of human doctors.”
With images from fundus cameras, devices that photograph the rear of an eye, taken by medical professionals, “this neural network helps in detecting DR stage and annotating lesions based on pixel density in the fundus images,” according to Intel. Within two minutes of uploading an image to it, Netra.AI provides “referable DR grading,” which, logically, would be referred to if the scans presented appropriate symptoms and results. This significantly reduces the strain on doctors and allows for healthcare specialists to “focus key resources on patients who need immediate care and intervention.”
This software seems to have already had notable success. In fact, as of the announcement, Netra.AI has screened a little over 3,000 patients and identified 742 patients at-risk for Diabetic Retinopathy to be referred to experts.
Working to eliminate blindness, one scan at a time
The heads at Intel, Sankara, and Leben are proud of their work and hope for its continued success. “The use of AI to improve disease detection and prevention is a critical step for the healthcare industry and a giant leap for humankind,” said Prakash Mallya, vice president and managing director of Sales, Marketing and Communications Group, Intel India. Kaushik Murali, president of Medical Administration, Quality and Education at Sankara Eye Foundation India, had similar thoughts. “Technology and AI are democratizing healthcare access,” said Murali. “Our team at Sankara Eye Foundation has focused on our vision to eliminate needless blindness from India. It is an example of how like-minded collaborators can create meaningful and impactful solutions for various challenges that face humanity.”
With the pandemic’s grip crippling healthcare systems around the world, this technology couldn’t have come at a better time: having the ability to give doctors and nurses more resources and energy to attend to their neediest patients. Though these are initial findings, the results are indeed promising.
YouTube: Leben Care Netra.AI Product Demo
Photo Credit: The feature image has been prepared by Jordan Whitfield and is symbolic. The simulation image has been prepared by the National Institutes of Health, part of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. The eye scan image has been provided by Sankara Eye Foundation as was made available as part of Intel’s press release.
Source: Intel press release