Real time ophthalmological diagnosis by 5G using Formula 1 technology
The leap that the pandemic has given in terms of digitization is indisputable. And one of the fields that has suffered the most from this transformation has been health care. Experts say that years have been advanced in just a few months. They talk about technological implementations, but also about habits. The former push the latter and the latter, in turn, feed back the need of the former. Within telemedicine there is a field that could be favored by the adoption of 5G. It’s about the detection of eye diseases through telediagnosis using Formula 1 optical technology as a reference.
In the scientific article Digital technology, tele medicine and artificial intelligence in ophthalmology: A global perspective, published by the specialized publisher Elsevier, the issue of how the maturation of multiple digital and telecommunication technologies in 2020 has created a great opportunity for remote ophthalmology. A door is opened to new models of medical care. And 5G is at the center of the equation.
Formula 1 technology for teleassistance in ophthalmology
In Spain, initiatives have been launched that explore the possibilities of remote ophthalmology. In Vigo, a project promoted by Red.es and of which Telefónica is a partner, plans to offer remote diagnosis in real time to groups with difficult access to health centers, such as the rural population or people with reduced mobility.
Remember that early diagnosis is critical in eye care. Well, the vast majority of cases of blindness are preventable. To carry out these check ups, which ophthalmologists recommend to be annual, Ocuexplorer 5G has been created. It is a robotic arm that takes hundreds of images of the eye per second. The optical technology is based on equipment used in Formula 1. They are high definition photographs, which are sent for processing in edge computing.
This technology makes an early diagnosis using artificial intelligence algorithms and then contacts an ophthalmologist remotely if it detects signs of disease. The last step to perform a complete monitoring of the patient.
Remote diagnosis of eye diseases
One of the key points in diagnosing eye diseases at a distance is better quality video calls. Improving the quality of video consultations creates a stronger relationship between patient and doctor. The authors of the cited article believe that examine patients in real time with streaming images in high definitionwith a slit lamp, like the one commonly used by ophthalmologists, will be common in the future.
For this to be possible, some of the qualities that 5G has are needed. For starters, the latency has to be imperceptible. Note that the slit lamp will be remote controlled. But, in addition, the images have to have a very high resolution, which requires speed.
Among the eye diseases that could be diagnosed is diabetic retinopathy. It occurs because a high level of sugar in the blood vessels leads to their swelling. An imbalance in the retina can lead to vision loss. In some countries, such as the United Kingdom and Singapore, programs have been established to monitor this disease by telemedicine. Although the necessary devices are needed to apply retinography, which allows the color of the retina to be seen.
Two programs have been launched in the United States that allow imaging of patients at a primary care physician. These are then sent to a center, with information on blood pressure and blood glucose, and ophthalmologists examine all the data. So that a diagnostic aid can be carried out.
Also glaucoma, which if left untreated can lead to blindness, can be monitored through telemedicine. Today there is technology to remotely detect changes in glaucoma patients. Retinography devices are required for this connected to a network to send the images.
The idea is that there are facilities with this ophthalmology equipment. They would be semi automated centers where patients could go. However, the ophthalmologist would be at a distance, examining the results. It is a formula to bring eye care to remote places or people with limited mobility.
The sum of technologies for eye diseases: 5G, AI, 4K, IoT
At Moorfields Eye Hospital in Scotland, the first remote examination of an eye with 4K resolution was carried out in 2019. It was done through a 5G network, which allowed establishing communication between Edinburgh and London. The high quality of the video allowed the ophthalmologist to perceive even the smallest details. And all from a distance of hundreds of kilometers.
But 4K is not the only technology that can improve the practice of telecare in ophthalmology. The artificial intelligence will also play an important role. It will allow pre diagnosing possible eye diseases by analyzing images. Once the algorithms have been trained with photographs of confirmed cases, an algorithm will be able to recognize patterns with some precision. Although obviously the judgment of a doctor will always be necessary.
Respect to IoT, will allow to have ophthalmology devices connected outside the consultation. The doctor may be in one place and the teams in another. But all this must be connected by a high speed connection, low latency and maximum reliability. 5G completes the formula.
The future of ophthalmology goes through smartphones
In the field of remote treatment of eye diseases, everyday technology cannot be ignored. Just as we use our smartphones for a video conference with the doctor, they could also be used for more complex applications. That’s what the Moorfields Eye Hospital experiment proved. To capture the images, equipment like the usual one was not used, but the system was based on a smartphone.
The researchers worked with a smartphone coupled to a portable slit lamp, more manageable than those usually found in a consultation. The result was that the real time image allowed the eye to be examined at high resolution. And part of the system was common technology: a smartphone with a 5G chip.