An artificial intelligence (AI) system safely and effectively detects diabetic retinopathy (DR), a major cause of blindness, without the need for a physician to interpret the image or results, according to an article published online August 28 in npj Digital Medicine.

The trial results will change practice, one expert not involved with the study told Medscape Medical News. He predicts the system will be available in places such as major drugstore chains within 3 years.

Results from the prospective study evaluating the platform, called IDx-DR (IDx LLC), were convincing enough for the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to fast-track its approval in April.

It was "the first FDA authorized autonomous AI diagnostic system in any field of medicine with the potential to help prevent vision loss in thousands of people with diabetes annually," write lead author Michael D. Abràmoff, MD, PhD, founder and president of IDx. Abràmoff is also a professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences with University of Iowa Health Care, Iowa City.