Artificial Intelligence in Optometry: A New Level of Confidence

Artificial Intelligence in Optometry A New Level of Confidence

Many optometrists use Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) for retina diagnostics today: it is non-invasive, efficient, and very accurate. OCT allows one to diagnose any ocular pathologies correctly and be confident about the treatment. However, it takes time and practice to master OCT scan interpretation which is why artificial intelligence AI in optometry is becoming more and more widespread.

Shortage of Optomertists

There is another reason why artificial intelligence (AI) is gaining momentum in the eye care industry. The shortage of optometrists in the world is critical: 14 million specialists are needed when there are only 331 K available in the world according to WHO. In such a situation optometrists may feel enormous pressure and may feel overburdened without support.

Benefit of AI

Despite the skepticism that can be associated with AI in optometry, eye care professionals will definitely benefit from this technology. It takes longer to do an eye exam since people are getting older on average. Sometimes optometrists have a small amount of time to pay attention to each and every elderly patient. This creates a conundrum for the optometrist, forcing them to compromise on how they evaluate the patient or change how they do the exam. We are aware that AI is capable of analyzing photos and spotting early alterations to the retina. This allows the optometrist to spend more time with the patient, communicate more, do additional exams, and ask more questions. It is extremely important.

Is AI a threat?

Artificial intelligence (AI for OCT) might sound threatening to many eye care specialists, however, it will never be a substitute for them. Artificial intelligence can only be an additional tool for the second opinion but the diagnosis will always be on the side of eye care professionals. More than that, the diagnosis is always made on the basis of a coherent ophthalmic examination, where ophthalmic imaging is just one of the parts.

Among the most obvious benefits of the utilization of artificial intelligence for optometry it is necessary to mention the following:

Confidence when working with complex, controversial OCT scans which are difficult to interpret

  • Second opinion for any scan that is difficult to interpret
  • The possibility to detect minor, early, or rare pathologies. Sometimes optometrists lack experience and do not notice some minor changes in the retina. In this case, AI can become a backup to support them.
  • The possibility to differentiate quickly between pathological and non-pathological OCT scans, and not waste time on the last.

All in all, the eye care industry is a great field for digitalization: many routine operations can easily be automated, and many things can be improved. The most serious obstacle in the digital transformation of the eye care industry is the skepticism of eye care professionals themselves. They must understand that AI will be their tool, and it will never substitute for them. However, AI can become a reliable and always accessible friend to anyone.

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