Access to quality healthcare is a fundamental human right. However, unfortunately, many individuals still face obstacles that prevent them from receiving the care they need. One such area where accessibility remains a challenge is in the detection and management of eye conditions, such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. These diseases can lead to vision loss, but with early detection and appropriate treatment, the progression can be slowed or even stopped. Despite the importance of regular eye exams, many individuals struggle to receive the necessary screenings due to barriers such as distance, time, and cost.
This is where automated retinal screening comes into play. The technology uses machine learning algorithms to analyze retinal images and diagnose disease instead of a human expert. As a result, screening can be performed on-the-spot, in primary care clinics instead of requiring patients to schedule a separate visit with the eye specialist.
As the majority of patients don't adhere to annual retinal screenings at eye specialists, this leaves them untreated and undiagnosed. With automated screening, patients’ primary care providers can ensure that patients are actually screened by performing the procedure when patients are coming in for their routine visits. The procedure can become as ubiquitous and routine as HbA1c testing or blood pressure monitoring.
Another advantage of automated retinal screening is its affordability. Traditional screening methods require expensive equipment and highly trained professionals, which result in expensive and time-consuming screenings. Automated retinal screening eliminates these barriers, making it possible for more people to receive the necessary screening, regardless of their financial status. Furthermore, the technology can be performed by non-specialists, reducing the cost of each exam and making it accessible to more people.
Automated retinal screening can detect a broad range of diseases, including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration. Diabetic Retinopathy is the leading cause of blindness in the working-age population in the US. Glaucoma is another major cause of blindness, affecting over 60 million people worldwide, while age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss in the elderly.
But while the technology is already available, as of January 2023 only screening for diabetic retinopathy has been cleared by FDA to replace the diagnostic decision of a specialist. Glaucoma, AMD and other conditions are still pending approval.
In conclusion, automated retinal screening is a powerful tool for eliminating the financial and social barriers to healthcare access. The technology is fast, accurate, and cost-effective, making it possible to provide quality care to more people, regardless of their location or financial status. By detecting and managing eye diseases such as diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration, we can help ensure that everyone has access to the care they need and that no one is left behind.