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Chinese hospital deploys Artificial Intelligence to prevent blindness

The instrument is capable of diagnosing three types of fundus disorders -- diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration

Saturday January 12, 2019 6:13 PM, ummid.com News Network

Beijing: A Chinese hospital on Thursday launched free consultations featuring Artificial Intelligence (AI) cameras to detect ocular fundus diseases, which are a major cause of blindness.

Deqing county hospital in Guangdong Province became the first to use the device, co-developed by China's search engine Baidu and Sun Yat-sen University, to serve the general public, Baidu told Xinhua.

The instrument is capable of diagnosing three types of fundus disorders -- diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration. It scans the eyes and generates a report in 10 seconds, all done without the need for an ophthalmologist to be present.

With an accuracy rate of 94 percent, it has previously been piloted in hospitals in nine Chinese provinces, according to Baidu.

Though it may be interpreted as AI threatening the jobs of doctors, Baidu said the new tool is aimed to alleviate the needs due to the scarcity of ophthalmologists, especially in China's rural regions, Xinhua reported.

Fundus diseases are a major cause of blindness in the developing world, where a lack of eye doctors and instruments has stymied timely diagnosis and treatment. China, with a population of 1.39 billion, has only thousands of ophthalmologists capable of analyzing fundus photos screening.

Xu Yanwu, a Baidu engineer developing the instrument, said the AI cameras were specifically designed to address the lack of medical instruments and ophthalmologists at grassroots health facilities.

"It is easy to use and can be operated by a non-professional. Its 94-percent sensitivity and specificity at analysing photos can match that of a senior doctor at a tertiary hospital," Xu said.

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