India's largest eye care provider, Aravind Eye Hospital, has been quietly working for over four years with Google on a project to use artificial intelligence (AI) in ophthalmology. Aravind Eye Hospital, which has branches across India, is headquartered in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Lily Peng, product manager at Google, who released a paper on the research a year ago, said at the 2017 WIRED Business Conference that Google had just finished a clinical study in India, and that work was underway to get the technology into routine use with patients. India, considered the diabetes capital of the world, has over 70 million diabetes patients who are at risk of blindness due to the disease. India's largest eye care provider, Aravind Eye Hospital, has been quietly working for over three to four years with Google on a project to use artificial intelligence in ophthalmology At the TensorFlow Dev Summit earlier this year, Peng had said that that Google's machine learning algorithm was very close to an ophthalmologist in terms of performance.
Diabetic retinopathy, an eye disorder caused by diabetes, is the primary cause of blindness in America and over 99% of cases in India. India and China currently account for over 90 million diabetic patients and are on the verge of an explosion of diabetic populations. This may result in an unprecedented number of persons becoming blind unless diabetic retinopathy can be detected early. Aravind Eye Hospitals is the largest eye care facility in the world, handling over 2 million patients per year. The hospital is on a massive drive throughout southern India to detect diabetic retinopathy at an early stage.
Data on the effectiveness of the artificial intelligence screening system EyeArt was presented at the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) 2019 Annual Meeting in San Francisco. Results of the study examining EyeArt revealed the system had the ability to accurately predict diabetic retinopathy 95.5% of the time, without the input of an ophthalmologist, and in less than a minute. With the diabetes epidemic continuing to plague patient populations in the US and across the globe--and 1 in 4 diabetics developing diabetic retinopathy--investigators sought to evaluate the effectiveness of the artificial intelligence screening system in a group of 893 patients. Led by Srinivas Sadda, MD, of the Doheny Eye Institute at UCLA, investigators conducted the study at 15 different centers across the US. For inclusion in the study, patients needed to have a diagnosis pf diabetes mellitus, be at least 18 years of age, and provide written informed consent.