Conference Roundup

Is AI inevitable in ophthalmology? That’s up for debate

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During a session at Hawaiian Eye & Retina 2021, Dr Robert Chang and Dr Jason M. Bacharach debated for and against, respectively, the use of artificial intelligence in ophthalmology.

In this light-hearted yet informative session, both doctors agreed that medical AI was already gaining traction across many medical specialties. Dr Chang pointed out that 73 Medical AI systems were already cleared by the FDA, including Idx-DR, a digital diagnostic tool for diabetic retinopathy.

Dr Chang said that one of the main unmet needs that AI has the potential to address is the earlier identification of eye disease, allowing for more cost-effective screening methods. Another area of potential is creating custom AI algorithms that would take into account the specific skills of the individual clinician.

In the next 10 years, Dr Chang predicted AI will dominate in areas like Big Data, telemedicine, and Target Based Care.

Most of Dr Bacharach’s argument against AI revolved around the difficulty in adopting it. He cited regulatory issues, supply chain issues, liability issues, and quality and validation concerns, in addition to security concerns with utilizing the cloud for patient data.

Dr Chang rebutted by arguing that momentum is already rolling in AI’s favor and over the next 10 years solutions to all of those “problems” will probably be addressed.

“Everyone has an AI strategy,” said Dr Chang. “With this force behind it and with the government’s new rules on data sharing and sharing data with the patients…that we have enough momentum now and enough interest from publications that it is useful, that we are going to be putting all of our efforts to solve some of these difficult problems.”

Dr Bacharach concluded by suggesting that AI is a beneficial tool but that “clinicians are still the final judge and juror.”

Chang RT and Bacharach JM. Artificial Intelligence vs. Medical Doctor. Presented at: Hawaiian Eye & Retina 2021.

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