(Text by Reporter Xing Beilin | Correspondent Yu Wenlong) In the morning of February 4, 2018, the Construction Project of AI Screening of Diabetic Retinopathy of Jing’an District North Medical Service Community officially began. Therefore medical AI technology was applied to ophthalmology clinical field of Shanghai communities for the first time, which would facilitate the implementation of hierarchical diagnosis and treatment, the promotion basic initial diagnosis and two-way referral, as well as the extension of quality medical resources. In the launching ceremony of the project, the Joint Laboratory of Ophthalmology Big Data Shanghai Jing’an District Image Reading Center of National Engineering Center of Science and Technology Information unveiled its nameplate synchronously.
On that day, more than 60 community family doctors from 6 hospitals of Jing’an District North Medical Service Community participated in the themed training, to acquire and master new knowledge and technologies for finding out Diabetic Retinopathy and ensure that more community residents be diagnosed and treated as early as possible.
Citizens could get screened in communities conveniently
The launch of the AI Screening of Diabetic Retinopathy Project provided a “new weapon” for various community family doctors to detect Diabetic Retinopathy. Doctors could diagnose more effectively and accurately by analyzing the AI medical images to gain auxiliary diagnosis suggestions. From now on, diabetic patients from the north of Jing’an District will no longer suffer from the helplessness and fatigue of “waiting in long lines in ophthalmology departments of secondary or tertiary hospitals to do routine diabetic fundus examinations”, but enjoy AI preliminary screening of Diabetic Retinopathy in nearby community health service centers conveniently. The photographs of fundus examination would be sent to ophthalmology department of Shibei Hospital through the ophthalmology Big Data platform of National Engineering Center of Science and Technology Information for re-examination.
Chen Jili, Director of Ophthalmology Department of Shibei Hospital, told the reporter that Diabetic Retinopathy is a common retinal vascular disease and also the main cause of blindness for diabetic patients. Clinically, it can be diagnosed early through echo ophthalmoscopy or fundus colorized photography. AI Screening of Diabetic Retinopathy Program could not only increase the early detection rate of eye diseases but also assist community medical institutes to detect and manage chronic diseases and increase the utilization efficiency of medical resources.
Explore and build a cloud platform for ophthalmology consultation
Early in 2016, Shanghai has already started the fourth 3-year plan of building the public health system—“Shanghai Diabetic and Oculopathy Comprehensive Prevention Project”, and various community healthcare centers have comprehensively carried out screening for Diabetic Retinopathy. But in practical operation, community screening is still faced with a lot of difficulties.
Chen Jili said to the reporter that though equipment for fundus examination had been popularized in community health service centers, the actual utilization rate of the equipment was not very high as some community ophthalmologists were not able to read the photographs and worried that they couldn’t diagnose appropriately based on images of fundus examination and thus couldn’t explain diseases to patients. AI technologies provided new ideas for solving the above-mentioned difficulties. According to Chen Junfeng, Director of Shanghai Shibei Hospital, the leading unit of Jing’an District North Medical Service Community, in the middle of October 2017, the first “Demonstration Base of Applying AI to Ophthalmology” co-established by Shanghai Shibei Hospital and Airdoc, an leading AI company based in Beijing in AI medical field, settled in Shanghai Shibei Hospital. This demonstration base strengthened the hospital’s service capacity in basic level through AI technologies, thus moving the guarantee system ahead to the primary line and extending the emphasis to community level in the aspects of health promotion and disease prevention. By utilizing the AI system developed by Airdoc to analyze the medical images and take auxiliary diagnosis suggestions, ophthalmologists could identify the images more quickly, efficiently and accurately, and provide comprehensive, consistent, dynamic and full-course diabetic and oculopathy health management service on the information platform, forming the mode of “screening-detecting-transferring consultation-following up-health management” for diabetic and oculopathy complications. The system has managed to decrease morbidity of oculopathy complications, blindness and visual impairment rate of Diabetic Retinopathy. At present, this project has spread to communities in the north of Jing’an District.
The reporter learned that experts and scholars would further promote the popularization and clinical application of the new technology of AI Ophthalmic diagnosis and treatment and focus on solving technical problems in analyzing ophthalmologic images. Jing’an District North Medical Service Community has also started to explore the construction of the cloud platform for ophthalmology consultation, improve the clinical level of oculopathy diagnosing of community hospitals with the help of the new screening methods for chronic diseases, provide better medical experience for residents in the area and lay a solid foundation for Jing’an District to take advantage of AI technology to carry out the general investigation of chronicle diseases.