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The challenge

Diabetic retinopathy screening can only be done by specialists

Diabetic retinopathy is a complication affecting one in three people with diabetes. Without early detection and timely treatment, it can lead to partial loss of vision or blindness.

A scan of a retina showing signs of diabetic retinopathy.

Only specialists (ophthalmologists) can screen and diagnose people for this condition, so general practitioners or optometrists refer at-risk diabetic patients for screening. Patients may wait six weeks or more to see a specialist, and may need to wait again if results show they need treatment or surgery.

Some patients referred to public hospitals and specialists for screening may not have the condition, and their referrals can increase wait times for patients who need urgent screening and treatment.

Our response

Technology GPs can use to screen patients themselves

Our researchers at the Australian eHealth Research Centre used the Zeus system at CSIRO’s Pawsey Supercomputing Centre to develop an artificial intelligence-based grading software, known as Dr Grader.

Dr Grader analysed real ophthalmologists' grading data to develop its ability to detect various signs of diabetic retinopathy.

Using the software, GPs can take high resolution images of patients' retinas during a regular GP visit.

Dr Grader analyses the images and reports on any signs of diabetic retinopathy and their severity. Based on the information and decision support provided by Dr Grader, GPs can then refer patients to an ophthalmologist for further investigation, prioritised by the severity of their symptoms.

The results

Trial shows GP screenings with technology as effective as a specialist

In our clinical trial at the GP Superclinic at Midland Railway Workshops in Perth, GPs used our AI-driven technology to successfully screen over 300 patients with diabetes for diabetic retinopathy.

Read more about the trial results

Our software has since been licenced by company, TeleMedC. TeleMedC has obtained HSA regulatory approvals in Singapore, and has to date rolled out the technology to more than 100 GP clinics in Asia, including in Singapore and Malaysia.

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