How could your data play a part in the future of eye care?

Posted: Thursday 02 February 2023
virtual eye

Dr Wen Hwa Lee, chief executive officer and chief scientist of charity Action Against AMD (AAAMD), has shared more about how your data could play a part in the future of eye care.

Joining our monthly My Macular and Me webinar in January Lee revealed more detail about a new project, which will see AAAMD working alongside optometrists and ophthalmologists to ensure more retinal photos and scans are made available to researchers.

The project, which will be launching later this year, will be encouraging the public to donate data safely and securely for research. Lee said this aims to create the world’s largest database of retinal images from the public, which is a critical piece to be analysed using artificial intelligence (AI) to develop new insights in detection of macular disease, earlier diagnosis and new treatments.

Lee said: “With this effort and us taking this special interest in eye health, we are one of the first countries to move the entire firefighting mode to understanding how the disease occurs to try and stop it early on.”

Lee also highlighted how the project could help reduce pressure on NHS services. He said: “With so much pressure on the NHS especially in secondary care where ophthalmology has been busiest outpatient specialty for several consecutive years, it is now not only logical but necessary to better call upon primary care.”

He added: “If optometrists can be equipped with tools to help them send only the people who absolutely need to go to hospital we already increase the productivity of the NHS without a single pound being injected into the system.”

The project will see researchers use the data to train AI tools to augment the optometrists to further increase their ability to discern disease from people who have not yet been diagnosed, to detect multiple conditions earlier or even before they may cause any harm. By collecting data from ‘healthy’ participants (or ‘pre-patients’), this will ensure that the AI algorithms are representative of the population and can have a longer-term impact on our future health.

Keep an eye out over the next few months as we’ll be revealing more about this project and how you, and your family, can get involved.

For more information and to learn more about AI and how it is transforming eye care, watch Lee’s webinar.