This past year was a big one for IDx, whose first product, IDx-DR, became the first autonomous artificial intelligence (AI) diagnostic system to gain approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Next year is poised to be another big year for AI in general as IDx and many other tech heavyweights strive to continue the push for easier access to autonomous artificial intelligence systems.

We recently spoke with IDx founder Michael Abramoff, M.D., Ph.D., to learn more about his company, his competition and how autonomous AI might affect healthcare and patients in the near future.

“Autonomous AI systems have massive potential to improve healthcare productivity, lower healthcare costs and improve accessibility and quality,” Abramoff said in a recent release.

IDx’s Plans for Autonomous AI

IDx-DR, was designed to detect diabetic retinopathy, the most common cause of vision loss among patients with diabetes and a leading cause of blindness among working-age adults. Its FDA clearance earlier this year was a major milestone that will likely help propel a market with great promise for medicine.

But what is autonomous AI? These kinds of systems do not require a physician to interpret the images or results. This drives down cost and makes it easier for patients to get answers about their health more quickly.

Abramoff said autonomous AI solutions will shift the point-of-care from specialty clinics to primary care. Not only could this increase access for patients, it could lower the cost, depending on a patient’s copay.

For example, patients with diabetes are supposed to get their retina checked once a year for blindness. Patients need to make appointments with their eye care provider three months in advance, and most people forget. Abramoff told Healthcare Analytics News™ that roughly 50 to 70 percent of patients don’t get the exam, even though they need it.