Moorfields Eye Hospital and St George’s, University of London to deliver diabetic eye screening project

By Editor
26th October 2021
Diabetic retinopathy, Technology

Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and St George’s, University of London have teamed up to lead a half a million-pound artificial intelligence (AI) project.

Funded by NHSX and the Health Foundation, the research project will use AI technology to analyse retinal images from people with diabetes to detect sight-threatening diabetic eye disease.

Enabled by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the new technology will be able to detect diabetic eye disease more efficiently and quicker than human specialists.

Crucially, the project will develop safeguarding systems to ensure it works for every demographic and that AI performance does not vary across population sub-groups, such as ethnicity or gender.

Additionally, the project will provide evidence to support the commissioning and deployment of the first potential widespread use of AI within the NHS.

Researchers at Moorfields and St George’s, University of London have previously shown that automated retinal image analysis systems using AI can indeed provide a safe, cost-effective alternative.

This could provide major benefits for the NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme (DESP), which generates millions of retinal images every year for early detection of diabetic eye disease – the leading causes of blindness in the working age population. Considering the cost and number of screening episodes, the savings could extend to more than £10 million every year in England alone.

Concerns have been raised over AI image recognition technologies, such as facial recognition varying in performance with gender and ethnicity.

Researchers at Moorfields and St George’s, University of London will create a database of retinal images from different ethnic groups, genders and ages to ensure continued safety and confirm that anyone affected by diabetes in the UK will benefit.

They will convene a group from North East London DESP including people with diabetes, a screening specialist, a consultant endocrinologist and a public health physician, informing the best way to use these systems within the NHS DESP.

Professor Adnan Tufail, Consultant Ophthalmologist at the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology said: “It’s crucial that the first wide-scale deployment of AI in the NHS is safe and performs to 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.”

Professor of Statistical Epidemiology at St George’s, University of London, Alicja Rudnicka said: “Importantly, this project will also 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.”

She added: “Moreover, the methodology and standards we develop will be transferable to other healthcare domains to build trust in AI technology in healthcare moving forward.”

This project will commence in partnership with The Homerton University Hospital, Kingston University, and University of Washington, USA.

Photo by Amanda Dalbjörn on Unsplash

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