N.Y.-Based Mount Sinai Launches Ophthalmic AI Center

July 5, 2023
Initially, new center will research and implement validated AI models across three areas: Mount Sinai’s tele-retina program, ophthalmology tele-consult program, and eye stroke service

The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai has launched the Center for Ophthalmic Artificial Intelligence and Human Health, which it says is the first of its kind in New York and one of the first in the United States.

In partnership with the Windreich Department of Artificial Intelligence and Human Health at Icahn Mount Sinai, the center aims to advance clinical innovation in AI-based diagnostic care in ophthalmology and population-based medical care, while advancing the understanding of cardiovascular and neurological conditions that impact patient well-being.

Mount Sinai will lead the way in incorporating AI into trainee and physician education, research, and the clinical setting for rapid diagnosis of eye diseases and conditions including macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, hypertensive retinopathy, systemic conditions, and retinal tumors. Early detection and intervention can prevent vision loss, and may also prevent heart attack and stroke since several eye conditions are linked to cardiovascular and neurological issues.

“We anticipate that the center will help revolutionize and transform population-based health, thereby enhancing quality and equitable care,” said James C. Tsai, M.D., Delafield-Rogers Professor and Chair of Ophthalmology at Icahn Mount Sinai and the Mount Sinai Health System, President of New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai (NYEE), and inaugural director of the center, in a statement. “Besides the more timely diagnosis and referral of community-based ocular conditions, we will better predict cardiovascular health in the future since recent research has shown that cardiovascular risk factors can be determined from AI-guided analysis of retinal fundus photographs. No other specialty in medicine allows such an unimpeded view and assessment of the cardiovascular and neurological systems.”

Tsai will expand the center with two co-directors: Louis Pasquale, M.D., chair of Ophthalmology at the Mount Sinai Hospital and director of the Mount Sinai – NYEE Eye and Vision Research Institute, and Alon Harris, Ph.D., vice chair of International Research and Academic Affairs at Icahn Mount Sinai.

The center will research and implement validated AI models across three initial areas: Mount Sinai’s tele-retina program, ophthalmology tele-consult program, and eye stroke service.

In Mount Sinai's tele-retina program, primary care physicians use high-quality portable digital cameras to capture retinal images during annual patient exams. Images are then uploaded to a secure technology platform, where NYEE retinal specialists access and read them and provide timely diagnoses. The implementation of validated AI software for these retinal images in the coming years could provide onsite interpretations of these scans, appropriate immediate patient referrals, and risk calculations for heart disease and stroke.

Mount Sinai’s tele-ophthalmology consult pilot program, currently housed at Mount Sinai Morningside and Mount Sinai West, provides timely diagnosis and triage of patients with eye emergencies by using sophisticated telemedicine platforms without relying on in-person consultations from ophthalmologists. With breakthroughs in AI technology, patients could gain a more rapid diagnosis with expedited treatment.

AI will also transform and expand Mount Sinai’s Eye Stroke Service, housed at several Emergency Departments in the Mount Sinai Health System, to expedite the diagnosis and treatment of patients who present with an acute eye stroke (central retinal artery occlusion). Currently, high-resolution optical coherence tomography retinal scans are taken in various emergency departments and sent to on-call retinal specialists to make an instantaneous diagnosis and alert the neuroradiology team that immediate stroke treatment with intra-arterial thrombolysis therapy is needed.

“Artificial Intelligence is revolutionizing our society, especially in how we deliver healthcare to patients,” said Thomas J. Fuchs, Dr.sc., dean of Artificial Intelligence and Human Health at Icahn Mount Sinai, in a statement. “Ophthalmology is at the forefront of this change since the image domain lends itself exceptionally well to modern deep learning-based AI. At Mount Sinai, we can realize the vision of an AI-driven ophthalmology that will drastically improve care for nearly every patient visiting our hospitals.”