The UK's National Health Service (NHS) is expanding its partnership with Google's AI unit DeepMind with the aim of improving the detection, treatment, and prevention of eye diseases.
Specfically, the DeepMind unit is working with the NHS specialist Moorfields Eye Hospital with the ultimate goal of cutting down the number of patients who suffer from common eye conditions like age-related macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy.
"We set up DeepMind because we wanted to use AI to help solve some of society's biggest challenges, and diabetic retinopathy is the fastest growing cause of blindness worldwide," DeepMind co-founder Mustafa Suleyman said in a statement.
Moorfields will share a set of 1 million anonymized eye scans with DeepMind, as well as some related anonymous information about eye condition and disease management. The hospital said it's not possible to identify patients from the scans. Since they're using historic scans, the research won't impact the care patients receive today but may be used to improve future care.
DeepMind first announced its partnership with the Royal Free London NHS Trust earlier this year -- the AI unit and the health system teamed up to work on improving the detection of kidney disease. The partnership has already given Google access to data from approximately 1.6 million patients who use three London hospitals.
With its new access to the data collected by Moorfields, DeepMind can research how technology can improve the analysis of eye scans, which are highly complex. Traditional analysis tools have been unable to explore scans fully, and eye health professionals typically take a long time to review them, Moorfields noted.
"Our research with DeepMind has the potential to revolutionise the way professionals carry out eye tests and could lead to earlier detection and treatment of common eye diseases," Moorfields' Peng Tee Khaw said in a statement.