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Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare: Intel’s AI tool screens patients for vision loss

Sankara Eye Foundation and Leben Care are deploying a cloud-based AI solution Netra.AI, powered by Intel technology, to identify retinal conditions in a short span of time with the accuracy level of human doctors

The solution can be expanded to other retinal conditions and glaucoma, helping to reduce the screening burden on healthcare specialists and focus key resources on patients who need immediate care and intervention.

In a country such as India that has a low doctor-patient ratio, Artificial Intelligence (AI) can enable greater access to expert care from anywhere, with telehealth and robotics applied across inpatient and outpatient environments. Experts says AI will bolster the role of healthcare by assisting in screening, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases thereby improving quality of life and reducing the cost burden for patients.

“India has a tremendous opportunity to lead human-centric applications and democratise AI for the world backed by high skilled talent, technology, vast data availability, and the potential for population-scale AI adoption,” says Prakash Mallya, vice-president and managing director of Sales, Marketing and Communications Group, Intel India.

Intel has been focusing its efforts towards accelerating AI innovation to deliver transformative healthcare solutions and democratise healthcare access and delivery in India. The company’s portfolio of compute, memory, storage, and networking technologies powers some of the most exciting healthcare and life sciences applications.

The cloud-based AI solution Netra.AI is the latest example of the impact and innovation that can be made possible with Intel technology. The solution uses deep learning to identify retinal conditions in a short span of time with the accuracy level of human doctors. Netra.AI can accurately identify diabetic retinopathy (DR), greatly reducing the screening burden on vitreoretinal surgeons. Typically, lack of trained retinal specialists in India—especially in remote, rural regions—limits effective screening of asymptomatic patients. This results in patients presenting late with advanced diabetic eye disease.

To address this challenge, Sankara Eye Foundation collaborated with Singapore-based deep learning AI healthcare startup Leben Care to develop and implement Netra.AI, a comprehensive retina risk assessment software-as-a-service platform in India. The solution analyses images from portable, technician-operated fundus camera devices, for immediate results of referable DR grading via a cloud-based web portal. It uses cutting-edge AI algorithms, developed in collaboration with leading retina experts, with a four-step deep convolutional neural network (DCNN). This neural network helps in detecting DR stage and annotating lesions based on pixel density in the fundus images. The solution can be expanded to other retinal conditions and glaucoma, helping to reduce the screening burden on healthcare specialists and focus key resources on patients who need immediate care and intervention.

Mallya says, “The use of AI to improve disease detection and prevention is a critical step for the healthcare industry and a giant leap for humankind. The Intel-powered Netra.AI is a cloud-based AI solution that can scale rapidly to enable faster and accurate detection of retinal disorders in large populations with limited healthcare resources. Sankara Eye Foundation and Leben Care have leveraged the power of Intel Xeon Scalable processors and built-in Intel Deep Learning (DL) Boost to accurately detect DR and enable timely treatment to effectively combat avoidable vision impairment and blindness in diabetic patients.”

Netra.AI is optimised for Intel Xeon Scalable processors with built-in Intel Deep Learning Boost and Intel Advanced Vector Extension 512 acceleration. Intel architecture delivers strong data protection, fast processing of large data volumes and service flexibility. The solution provides access to Intel-optimised images for TensorFlow, Apache MXNet and PyTorch, in addition to Intel performance libraries, to enhance application performance.

The solution does not replace ophthalmologists or retinal surgeons. However, through the easier accessibility of software and their integration with more portable fundus camera devices, which can be operated by a technician alone, this technology increases access for even a non-trained health professional to screen for DR.

“Technology and AI are democratising healthcare access, especially in screening for ailments. Our team at Sankara Eye Foundation has focused on our vision to eliminate needless blindness from India. The current solution, Netra.AI – where we had a key role in the design and development with Leben Care – uses robust AI-enabled platforms from Intel. It is an example of how likeminded collaborators can create meaningful and impactful solutions for various challenges that face humanity,” says Kaushik Murali, president of Medical Administration, Quality & Education, Sankara Eye Foundation India.

Netra.AI is a powerful tool for screening retinal illnesses in large populations with limited infrastructure, resources, and an overburdened healthcare system, claim Intel officials. The solution delivers excellent sensitivity and specificity, 99.7% and 98.5% respectively, for detection of any DR. It has been demonstrated in India and in other countries in Asia and Africa.

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