New Moorfields joint research project aims to support widespread use of AI in the NHS

Moorfields Eye Hospital and St George’s, University of London are leading a half a million pound research project on artificial intelligence (AI), funded by NHSX and the Health Foundation and enabled by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The project will use AI technology to analyse retinal images from diabetic patients to detect sight-threatening diabetic eye disease quicker and more efficiently than human specialists. The project will also provide evidence to support the commissioning and deployment of the first potential widespread use of AI within the NHS.

This could provide major benefits for the NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme (DESP), which generates millions of retinal images every year for early detection of diabetic eye disease - the leading cause of blindness in the working age population.
Concerns have been raised over AI image recognition technologies, such as facial recognition, varying in performance with gender and ethnicity. The project will develop safeguarding systems to ensure that retina recognition performance does not vary across population sub-groups.

“It’s crucial that the first wide-scale deployment of AI in the NHS is safe and performs to a high level across the board,” said Professor Adnan Tufail, consultant ophthalmologist at the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. “This project will develop the essential safety tools necessary, and monitoring systems to check the performance of AI after deployment to ensure trustworthy AI for the benefit of all patients.

“Importantly, this project will also be independent of any commercial interests,” said Professor Alicja Rudnicka, Professor of Statistical Epidemiology at St George’s, University of London. “We will also evaluate the perceptions, acceptability and expectations of health care professionals and people with diabetes in relation to AI technology implementation within the North East London DESP. Moreover, the methodology and standards we develop will be transferable to other healthcare domains to build trust in AI technology in healthcare moving forward.”

This project will commence in partnership with The Homerton University Hospital, Kingston University, and University of Washington, USA.

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