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Artificial intelligence algorithms may soon bring the diagnostic know-how of an eye doctor to primary care offices and walk-in clinics, speeding up the detection of health problems and the start of treatment, especially in areas where specialized doctors are scarce. The first such program — trained to spot symptoms of diabetes-related vision loss in eye images — is pending approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

While other already approved AI programs help doctors examine medical images, there’s “not a specialist looking over the shoulder of [this] algorithm,” says Michael Abràmoff, who founded and heads a company that developed the system under FDA review, dubbed LumineticsCore™ (formerly known as IDx-DR). “It makes the clinical decision on its own.”

LumineticsCore (formerly known as IDx-DR) and similar AI programs, which are learning to predict everything from age-related sight loss to heart problems just by looking at eye images, don’t follow preprogrammed guidelines for how to diagnose a disease. They’re machine-learning algorithms that researchers teach to recognize symptoms of a particular condition, using example images labeled with whether or not that patient had that condition.