At a press conference held on 22 November, Ursula Schmidt-Erfurth – an Austrian specialist in optometry and ophthalmology – spoke about the way in which big data and artificial intelligence are increasing the accuracy and speed of diagnostics in her domain. Surgical treatments are also significantly improving.
Methods of diagnosing diabetes based on examinations of the retina are currently making immense progress thanks to the combined use of artificial intelligence(IA) and big data. These innovations are bringing about improvements in the quality of care for eye disease.
Speaking to News Medical, Dr Schmidt-Erfurth, who runs the optometry and ophthalmology department at the Vienna University of Medicine in Austria, went so far as to call it a "digital revolution" when speaking at a press conference on Thursday 22 November.
Superior diagnostic capacities
"Medicine aided by AI is superhuman," a delighted Schmidt-Erfurth said. "The algorithms are quicker and more accurate. They can analyse things that a specialist cannot detect with the naked eye." In a matter of seconds, programmes can take and study high-resolution digital images of the retina, meaning that eye diseases linked to diabetes can be detected immediately.
When big data is added to this technique, some 50 other illnesses or causes for concern can also be diagnosed, including cardiovascular problems. In the future, high blood pressure or an increased risk of heart attack could be diagnosed very early thanks to analysis of the retina.
Eye operations made easier
New technologies are also set to help treatments and surgery. "We are already carrying out operations using digital technologies and with the help of AI," Schmidt-Erfurth adds, with "a virtual, accurate image of the part of the eye affected projected onto a large screen, so that the surgeon can operate while seeing exactly what he is doing as he takes his scalpel to the patient."
Does this mean that one day, we will have medical care without doctors in this particular field? Far from it, the Austrian researcher maintains, although she does hope that technology will eventually create "super-doctors" who will use all the various innovations available to make even better decisions.
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