We've developed and trialled new technology to enable GPs to screen for diabetic retinopathy, helping save the eyesight of people with diabetes.

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.

Only specialists (ophthalmologists) can screen and diagnose people for this condition, so GPs refer at-risk diabetic patients for screening as part of their disease management. 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.

A scan of a retina showing signs of diabetic retinopathy.

Our response

Technology GPs can use to screen patients themselves

We've developed artificial intelligence-based grading software, known as Dr Grader, which 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.

Our software has been licenced by Silicon Valley company TeleMedC.

The results

Trial shows GP screenings with technology as effective as a specialist

In our clinical trial at the GP Superclinic @ Midland Railway Workshops in Perth, GPs used our artificial intelligence-driven technology to successfully screen 187 diabetic patients for diabetic retinopathy, with results as accurate as those from an ophthalmologist.

TeleMedC plans to roll the technology out to a further 20 GP clinics in Western Australia over the next few months, with a view to further expanding across Australia.

It's hoped the tool will help GPs prioritise patients for treatment, avoid unnecessary referrals to public hospitals, potentially reduce waiting periods for patients and enable ophthalmologists to focus on patients needing treatment and surgery.

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