Google launches AI screening project for eye disease in Thailand

14 December 2018 (Last Updated December 23rd, 2019 10:23)

Google has launched an artificial intelligence (AI) research project in Thailand for screening an eye disease called diabetic retinopathy that leads to permanent blindness if left untreated.

Google launches AI screening project for eye disease in Thailand
Google’s pilot project in Thailand will use AI to assess medical images of the back of the eye to detect signs of diabetic retinopathy. Credit: Thomas Hawk.

Google has launched an artificial intelligence (AI) research project in Thailand for screening an eye disease called diabetic retinopathy that leads to permanent blindness if left untreated.

The pilot programme will involve the same AI system that was tested in India and the US for assessing medical images of the back of the eye to detect disease signs.

Google said that the AI model demonstrated accuracy on par with that of ophthalmologists, with high sensitivity and specificity. The tech company added that the model could help screen more patients in less time.

Being carried out in alliance with the Rajavithi Hospital, the pilot is intended to enable people in Thailand to get screenings that can potentially detect the condition early, when blindness can be prevented.

“Deploying this technology in underserved communities that don’t have enough eye specialists could be life-changing for many.”

Google in its blog post said: “Deploying this technology in underserved communities that don’t have enough eye specialists could be life-changing for many.

“We should work to make the benefits of AI available to everyone. Besides rolling out this diabetic retinopathy initiative in clinics in India with our partner Verily, we’ve also been conducting research in Thailand over the past few months.”

In August, Google announced findings from a new study of its AI system conducted in the US. The system was found to quickly and accurately detect nearly 50 eye disorders from routine medical scans.

The technology can automatically identify the characteristics of eye diseases within seconds. It can be applied to different eye scanners, facilitating easy integration into hospitals and other clinical settings.

In February, Google said that its AI can analyse retinal images to predict cardiovascular (CV) risk factors.