Thursday, 4 Mar 2021

Diabetes Singapore deploys AI technology to screen patients for early signs of diabetic eye conditions

SINGAPORE – In order to screen for early signs of diabetic eye conditions more efficiently, Diabetes Singapore will deploy an artificial intelligence (AI) system which can analyse and produce results for an eye scan within minutes, instead of about an hour.

The society has set a target to screen 11,000 patients this year for diabetes-related eye conditions, up from 8,000 screenings conducted last year, it said on Wednesday (Jan 27) in response to queries from The Straits Times.

Known as Selena+, the AI technology developed by local start-up EyRIS can identify patients with three types of eye disease – diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration.

Diabetic retinopathy, which is a result of damage to the blood vessels in one’s retina, is the most common microvascular complication of diabetes, affecting about 180,000 Singaporeans. It is the leading cause of vision loss in working-age adults worldwide, and can result in blindness.

To diagnose diabetic retinopathy, the AI technology looks out for symptoms such as bleeding, swelling and microaneurysms, which are red legions in the eye, said Associate Professor Gavin Tan, clinical director at the Singapore National Eye Centre’s Ocular Reading Centre.

It uses a “deep learning system” to differentiate patients with eye conditions from those with no such ailments, and identify those with mild diabetic retinopathy, as well as those with suspected glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration early, said EyRIS chief executive Lai Teik Kin.

The AI system has more than a 90 per cent accuracy rate, and it can “eliminate human inconsistencies” when analysing data, he added.

Previously, the retinal images were analysed and graded manually, and this can take around an hour to produce results, he noted.

For those with confirmed diabetic eye conditions, a second round of grading will be administered by the eye care provider to ensure that the diagnosis is accurate.

Since December last year, all diabetic eye screenings conducted by polyclinics are being processed through the Selena+ AI programme.

To better facilitate community outreach and educational programmes on diabetes, EyRIS and the Diabetes Singapore on Wednesday signed a memorandum of understanding.

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A total of four machines have been purchased by Diabetes Singapore, two of which will be used at its centres in Boon Keng and Jurong.

The other two machines will be in its mobile screening vans, which are usually deployed to support general practitioner clinics islandwide in providing diagnostic blood glucose tests and eye screenings for diabetic patients.

Diabetic patients are generally advised to go for screening at least once a year, so that early indications of eye conditions can be quickly referred to an eye specialist.

The cost of screening will be $15 for Diabetes Singapore members, and $18 for non-members.

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