Eyecare or iCare? A revolution in the eye screening world.

One of the stands in the Exhibition Hall that stood out was a smaller one, inhabited by a company known as iCare. Perhaps unsurprisingly, their product is used for eye screening.

But perhaps surprisingly, they are able to take photos of the back of your eye without any use of drops (the minimum pupil diameter is apparently 2.5mm).

And if that weren’t impressive, the images can be uploaded to their cloud-based AI, reviewed and returned with an analysis within a couple of minutes of completing the eye tests.

In theory, this would mean never having to wait for a letter from your service proclaiming that you have background retinopathy and scaring you that you may lose your sight. Instead, the clinician in the room could better use the five mins to explain what they could see and the effects or concerns.

However, the big question is, “How well does it work?”.

Fortunately, two weeks prior to ATTD (on 8th Feb), I’d been in for a screening check, so I have two separate sets of results that are close enough to be compared.

What iCare Illume thought

The response from the AI suggested that I had background retinopathy in both eyes, with my right eye scoring worse than my left eye. This came as no surprise and aligns with what has been the case for a long time.

The details are shown in the images below.

What you can see here are the images of the retinas alongside the analysis the AI has undertaken. The AI suggests that my levels are mild in one eye, and close to moderate in the other eye.

What the clinician that reviewed my DECS scan thought.

The letter that I received from DECS stated that I have background retinopathy, as unexpected, and mostly leaves it at that. There’s advice to manage my diabetes properly to reduce risk of proliferation, but nothing more detailed.

Reassuringly, at a high level, both diagnoses are the same. The human assessment doesn’t suggest that one eye is borderline moderate though.

Whilst there were no pictures with the letter, they can be requested by email and provided separately.

What can we take away from this?

Having a check-to-diagnosis window of less than five minutes, with a clinician present to explain the results would probably benefit a lot of people and make the whole process a lot less scary. With the iCare solution, that’s certainly a possibility.

To put that time in context, I had the iCare check done on 24th Feb. I had the DECS session on 8th Feb. The letter updating me on the outcome was dated 25th Feb. That’s quite a gap where someone might anxiously wait for the results.

Removing the need for the pupil expanding eyedrops is also a huge benefit, as it makes it far easier for those who need to drive to appointments to get there.

Additionally, the size of the machines and the quick time to diagnosis could provide a portable service. As long as there was an internet connection to upload the images to the cloud, then you could get to harder to reach people who may fall out of the eye screening process.

I’m not going to comment on the amount of information presented. I would expect that the two pages that came from iCare would go via a clinician, rather than directly to me, and while I personally might want to see all the information (I request the photos from my service), I can imagine others may not.

The other thing I can’t comment on is the scoring system. The UK uses a slightly different descriptive system to the iCare document, which is based off the International Clinical Diabetic [sic] Retinopathy severity classification. I assume they have an alignment.

Overall though, I was very impressed with the iCare system, especially at how quickly it did its job and the complete lack of eyedrops.

It will be interesting to see how rolling out technology like this will decrease the costs and increase the rate of eye screening in diabetes.

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