An algorithm developed by DeepMind can assess eye scans far faster - and as accurately - as some leading experts.

It’s set to be the first breakthrough AI system for health, says Pearse Keane, the ophthalmologist who initiated the collaboration with the artificial intelligence company, which is owned by Google’s parent corporation Alphabet.

Keane, who in addition to practising at Moorfields eye hospital in London is a researcher at University College London, says the new system can circumvent the severe shortage of experts who can interpret the millions of eye scans performed each year.

The DeepMind algorithm is trained to spot indicators of eye disease and recommend how patients should be referred for care.

The technology allows experts to prioritise patients with the most serious eye diseases, before irreversible damage sets in, said Keane.

“The results are jaw-dropping,” he told the Wired Health 2019 conference in London on Tuesday. “Ophthalmology will be the first field transformed by AI.”

Early results for the system show a correct referral rate of 94 per cent for over 50 eye disorders, putting it on the same level as people with 20-plus years of experience in the field, said Alan Karthikesalingam, a senior clinician scientist at DeepMind’s health division.