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Business & Profession Retina, Glaucoma, Health Economics and Policy, Professional Development

See the Bigger Picture

At a Glance

  • It’s remarkable, that still today, patients resort to taking photos of OCT images and retina scans acquired by their optometrist to share with their ophthalmologist
  • This is due to a lack of integrated systems that allow referrers to easily communicate with ophthalmologists
  • What’s needed is a system that’s image platform-agnostic; a cloud-based solution that accepts multiple, standardized formats
  • Such a system is about to be tested in the UK and the hope is that software like this will enhance collaborative care, improve the patient pathway and pave the way for new technologies

It’s an exciting time to be working in ophthalmology. Advances in imaging technology are revealing more about ocular disease, and the combination of “big data” and artificial intelligence strategies (such as Moorfields and Google DeepMind Health’s recent collaboration) is set to transform the diagnosis and detection of disease from images of the eye. However, a crucial ingredient for the successful integration of these technical advances into the real world of clinical practice is the existence of platforms that accommodate them, and the foresight of building infrastructure to support these promising technologies. A natural starting point for this, I believe, will be in the field of teleophthalmology, which relies heavily on both acquiring images of the eye and an electronic means to review, report, and relay information to the patient. In an ideal setting, an image will be acquired in a place convenient to the patient and an artificial intelligence algorithm will read the scans and generate an instantaneous report for the patient. A remotely located expert in the relevant ophthalmic subspecialty could then validate this report, communicate health advice to the patient and/or advise the need for a face-to-face encounter or repeat scan. Arguably, this utopia is within our reach today, but understanding its barriers and identifying practical solutions will be key in realizing this in our day-to-day practice.

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About the Author

Dawn Sim

Dawn Sim is a Consultant Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, and Institute of Ophthalmology, University College London, United Kingdom, and Global Medical Lead of Big Picture Eye Health.

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