AI diagnosis to make medical decisions is just about here


AP Photo/M. Spencer Green

❝ The US Food and Drug Administration approved this week the first software powered by artificial intelligence that replaces the need for a specialized doctor to interpret medical imagery.

The software is called IDx-DR, made by diagnostic AI startup IDx, and specifically analyzes images of the retina to detect whether a person with diabetes has a complication from the disease called diabetic retinopathy…

❝ Diabetic retinopathy is a complication of diabetes where blood sugar damages the back of the eye, according to the FDA, and is the main cause of the loss of vision for those with diabetes…

By allowing this software to be marketed in the US, the FDA is setting a bar for the accuracy needed in order for AI to take over for human doctors. When validating that the AI system worked, the FDA used images from 900 US patients. The software correctly detected more than mild diabetic retinopathy 87.4% of the time, and identified when patients did not have more than mild retinopathy 89.5% of the time. Accuracy for humans naturally varies from doctor to doctor, but for the FDA to approve the technology it “must provide for more effective treatment or diagnosis of a life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating disease or condition.”

No doubt a predictable percentage of Americans will demonstrate fear of this technology to a greater degree than any other educated nation. Part of that education and, more important, political processes, electoral politics, religious folderol, come together to work harder than anywhere else – to keep citizens from modernizing their lives and thinking. Why – we might even question authority.