‘Milestone’: DOST study marks first use of AI for ophthalmology in PH

Published September 30, 2021, 1:33 PM

by Charissa Luci-Atienza 

The Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Health Research and Development (DOST-PCHRD) has described as “significant milestone” the successful deployment of a validated artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm for diabetic retinopathy screening last week, marking the first use of AI in ophthalmology in the country.


The DOST-PCHRD cited that the Philippine Eye Research Institute (PERI), in collaboration with the Queen’s University of Belfast of the United Kingdom (UK), deployed the AI algorithm for diabetic retinopathy screening on Sept. 21.

“This is a significant milestone in Philippine ophthalmology and is a step towards establishing an inclusive program for diabetic retinopathy screening that has the potential to eliminate diabetes-related blindness,” it said in a statement.

It noted that the UK-Philippines Remote Retinal Evaluation Collaboration in Health: Diabetic Retinopathy or REACH-DR is a Newton-Agham program that aims to establish a diabetic retinopathy screening program (DRSP) here in the country.

“Establishing a local DRSP will help in the timely identification of eyes at risk for diabetes-related blindness and visual loss,” the Council said.

To achieve this, the DOST-PCHRD said the REACH-DR is eyeing to develop the necessary infrastructure for a local DRSP by analyzing and validating existing telemedicine technology. The program also sought the adaptation of the selected technologies into the Philippine setting, and completion of technology transfer to the Philippine stakeholders.

“If we succeed in establishing a DRSP locally, we can help treat patients on time, save their eyesight, and help them remain socially active,” said project leader and Harvard Medical School Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Dr. Paolo Antonio Silva.

“Ultimately, we want to reduce the incidence of blindness and visual impairment caused by diabetic retinopathy, which will allow the patients to live independently,” he added.

DOST-PCHRD Executive Director Dr. Jaime C. Montoya hailed the achievement of the REACH-DR team, led by Silva.

“This project is an example of how we build on research to make healthcare services more accessible for the Filipino people, and ultimately, help make their lives better,” he said.

The DOST-PCHRD said retinal screening is being conducted among underserved communities in Metro Manila and Central Luzon. The REACH-DR team is expected to complete the screening by June 2022.

The project is funded under the Newton Agham Program of the DOST-PCHRD and the UK Medical Research Council, it said.