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Moorfields Eye Hospital to use AI to analyse retinal images

A new research project could potentially provide the evidence base for the first widespread use of AI within the NHS

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Pixabay/Tesa Robbins

A new research project will use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse the retinal images of diabetes patients in an effort to detect potentially sight-threatening eye disease.

The £500,000 initiative will be led by Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and St George’s, University of London, with funding from NHSX and the Health Foundation.

The study could potentially provide evidence to support the commissioning and deployment of the first widespread use of AI within the NHS.

There are possible applications within the NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme (DESP), which generates millions of retinal images each year.

Researchers will focus on ensuring that the technology has safeguarding systems and that AI performance does not vary across population sub-groups, such as ethnicity and gender.

The scientists will create a database of retinal images from different ethnic groups, genders and ages to ensure that anyone with diabetes can benefit from the technology.

Consultant ophthalmologist, Professor Adnan Tufail, highlighted the importance of ensuring that the first widespread deployment of AI within the NHS is safe and performs at a high level across the board.

“This project will develop the essential safety tools necessary, and monitoring systems to check the performance of AI after deployment to ensure trustworthy AI for the benefit of all patients,” he said.

Professor Alicja Rudnicka added that the project will be independent of any commercial interests.

“We will also evaluate the perceptions, acceptability and expectations of health care professionals and people with diabetes in relation to AI technology implementation within the North East London DESP. Moreover, the methodology and standards we develop will be transferable to other healthcare domains to build trust in AI technology in healthcare moving forward,” she said.