On September 21, 2021, the Philippine Eye Research Institute (PERI), in collaboration with the Queen's University of Belfast of the United Kingdom (UK), successfully deployed a validated artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm for diabetic retinopathy screening, marking the first use of AI in ophthalmology in the Philippines.
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. 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.
To achieve this, REACH-DR pursues the following targets: 1) the development of the necessary infrastructure for a local DRSP by analyzing and validating existing telemedicine technology, 2) adaptation of the selected technologies into the Philippine setting, and 3) 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,” project leader and Harvard Medical School Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology Dr. Paolo Antonio Silva says. “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 adds.
“We, at the DOST-PCHRD, are proud of the achievement that the REACH-DR team has achieved,” DOST-PCHRD Executive Director Dr. Jaime C. Montoya says. “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 adds.
Currently, the REACH-DR team is conducting retinal screening among underserved communities in the National Capital Region (NCR) and Region 3. The screening is expected to be completed by June 2022.
The project is funded under the Newton Agham Program of the DOST-PCHRD and the UK Medical Research Council.