IDx in Coralville, Iowa has made a major breakthrough in artificial intelligence technology with a system that can detect conditions like diabetic retinopathy at a better rate than even a trained physician. This will allow greater access to diabetics that suffer from treatable eye conditions and provides a great perspective on the future of AI in healthcare.
What Is IDx?
Silicon Valley tech companies like Google are working on similar technology, but a small company out of Iowa became the first to bring the technology of this kind to patient care. IDx, led by Dr. Michael Abramoff, described his company’s artificial intelligence technology is capable of catching diabetic retinopathy far earlier than even he can. This is key.
Diabetic retinopathy has no symptoms, and this can mean vision loss may be irreversible by the time the patient starts experiencing symptoms or communicates this to their doctor. Obviously, it’s important for people with diabetes to be regularly tested, but right now 50% don’t. IDx and their new IDX-DR system could dramatically help.
IDx-DR Detects Diabetic Retinopathy
The IDx-DR AI system created by Dr. Abramoff and his team make it easier and more accessible for patients to be tested during a routine diabetes wellness visit at their primary care doctor, ensuring diabetic retinopathy is caught early when it’s easily treatable. Even though it is an AI solution, however, patients will still be seen by actual practitioners, at least for now.
There is no robot to conduct the testing. Most patients probably won’t realize they are even interacting with an AI system. The operator captures retinal images and submits them to the IDx-DR system and then the system determines the diagnostic output on its own and does not require a physician to interpret the results. Abramoff is hopeful this will roll out anywhere diabetics are undergoing routine checkups. But is this an adequate replacement for a well-trained physician?
Because Dr. Abramoff is a well-respected physician in the field, I asked if IDx-DR is just as good as he is. Abramoff explained the IDx-DR can not only detect diabetic retinopathy but in early testing, it’s often more accurate than a trained retina specialist. He explained because of their results, this is the first time the FDA has ever cleared an AI system that does not require a physician to look over its shoulder.
Can AI Save Healthcare?
Successfully rolling out AI in healthcare means lower cost and greater access for Americans and companies like IDx are leading the way. This is probably why U.S. Congress, The White House Office of Science and Technology, and The Federal Trade Commission have sought the expertise of Dr. Abramoff’s expertise on the safe implementation of AI in healthcare.