AI Helps Diagnose Diabetic Blindness

I am sure most folks in India have heard of The Aravind Eye Hospital in Madurai. Founded by Dr.Govindappa Venkataswamy, this hospital treats 2,000 (!!) people a day for free (if patients are unable to pay). Imagine the logistics of managing, diagnosing and treating what amounts to over 600,000 patients a year.

Now with support from Google’s artificial intelligence researchers, Aravind Hospital is trying to automate diagnosis of conditions like diabetic retinopathy. Usually a condition like this requires careful analysis of patients eyes and identifying markers indicating diabetic blindness. Now, however, an AI built into eye scanners can do it under a second.

While this neural net cannot (yet) diagnose all diseases, it’s bound to get better over time. For a country with literally hundreds of millions of diabetic poor, faster diagnosis methods will allow a substantial increase in number of patients an hospital can treat!

I just hope that our government doesn’t end up creating creating bureaucratic hurdles for deploying technologies like these. Read the NYT article here

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