The secret to identifying certain health conditions may be hidden in our eyes.
Researchers from Google and its health-tech subsidiary Verily announced on Monday that they have successfully created algorithms to predict whether someone has high blood pressure or is at risk of a heart attack or stroke simply by scanning a person’s eyes, the Washington Post reports.
Google’s researchers trained the algorithm with images of scanned retinas from more than 280,000 patients. By reviewing this massive database, Google’s algorithm trained itself to recognize the patterns that designated people as at-risk.
This algorithm’s success is a sign of exciting developments in healthcare on the horizon. As Google fine-tunes the technology, it could one day help patients quickly and cheaply identify health risks.
But don’t get too excited yet. The algorithm didn’t outperform existing medical approaches, such as blood tests according to the Washington Post report. The algorithms were able to pick out the patient at risk 70 percent of the time. That’s impressive, but it’s far from perfect.
The procedure also hasn’t been replicated or validated to the point where it can be broadly accepted in the scientific community.
And experts don’t think it will be necessary for Google’s technology to replace conventional, human-powered care in the near future.
Maulik Majmudar, associate director of the Healthcare Transformation Lab at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the Post that age and gender are already good predictors of risk for such disease. While Google’s algorithm is an improvement, its improvement to current healthcare practices would be marginal at best.
That said, it’s clear that artificial intelligence and machine learning have the potential to bring added convenience and affordability to the healthcare industry, even in areas as small as our eyes.