AI as good as expert doctors in assessing eye conditions

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Artificial intelligence (AI) is as good as some expert eye doctors when it comes to assessing eye conditions, new research has found.

The AI model GPT-4 – a ‘large language model’ – was tested against doctors at different stages in their careers as part of a study by the University of Cambridge. Each was presented with a series of 87 patient scenarios involving a specific eye problem, and asked to give a diagnosis or advise on treatment by selecting from four options.

According to the study, GPT-4 has clinical and reasoning skills that approach the level of specialist eye doctors. Indeed, GPT-4 gained similar scores to trainee and expert eye doctors - although the top performing doctors scored higher.

However, GPT-4 scored significantly better in the tests than unspecialised junior doctors, who are comparable to general practitioners in their level of specialist eye knowledge.

Speaking about the findings, Dr Arun Thirunavukarasu, lead author of the study – which he carried out while a student at the University of Cambridge’s School of Clinical Medicine – said: “We could realistically deploy AI in triaging patients with eye issues to decide which cases are emergencies that need to be seen by a specialist immediately, which can be seen by a GP, and which don’t need treatment.”

He added: “The models could follow clear algorithms already in use, and we’ve found that GPT-4 is as good as expert clinicians at processing eye symptoms and signs to answer more complicated questions.

“With further development, large language models could also advise GPs who are struggling to get prompt advice from eye doctors. People in the UK are waiting longer than ever for eye care.”

While large language models aren’t likely to replace healthcare professionals, according to the researchers, they do have the potential to improve healthcare as part of the clinical workflow.

The results are published today in the journal PLOS Digital Health.

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