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DeepMind Health division has achieved a major milestone by developing an artificial intelligence system that can detect over 50 sight-threatening eye diseases with the accuracy of an expert doctor. This system can quickly interpret eye scans and correctly recommend how patients should be referred for treatment. It is the result of a collaboration with Moorfields Eye Hospital; the partnership was announced in 2016 to jointly address some of the current eye conditions.

How Artificial Intelligence beats current OCT scanners

Currently, eyecare doctors use optical coherence tomography (OCT) scans to help diagnose eye conditions. OCT scans are often hard to read and require time to be interpreted by experts. The time required can cause long delays between scan and treatment, which can be troublesome if someone needs urgent care.

Deepmind’s AI system can automatically detect the features of eye diseases within seconds. It can also prioritize patients by recommending whether they should be referred for treatment urgently.


System architecture

The system uses an easily interpretable representation sandwiched between two different neural networks.

The first neural network, known as the segmentation network, analyses the OCT scan and provides a map of the different types of eye tissue and the features of the disease it observes.

The second network, known as the classification network, analyses the map to present eyecare professionals with diagnoses and a referral recommendation.

The system expresses the referral recommendation as a percentage, allowing clinicians to assess the system’s confidence.

AI-powered dataset

DeepMind has also developed one of the best AI-ready databases for eye research in the world. The original dataset held by Moorfields was suitable for clinical use, but not for machine learning research. The improved database is a non-commercial public asset owned by Moorfield. It is currently being used by hospital researchers for nine separate studies into a wide range of conditions.

DeepMind’s initial research is yet to turn into a usable product and then undergo rigorous clinical trials and regulatory approval before being used in practice. Once validated for general use, the system would be used for free across all 30 of Moorfields’ UK hospitals and community clinics, for an initial period of five years.

You can read more about the announcement on the DeepMind Health blog. You can also read the paper on Nature Medicine.

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