U of Iowa Health Care 1st to adopt landmark FDA-approved AI device in diabetes setting

The University of Iowa Health Care in Iowa City is the first U.S. health system to implement IDx-DR in the diabetes care setting, the product's developer IDx confirmed June 26.

The FDA's approval of the IDx-DR software, which uses artificial intelligence to detect diabetic retinopathy, in April marked the first medical device the FDA has authorized to provide a screening decision without requiring a specialist to interpret the results.

To use the IDx-DR software, a provider uploads digital images of a patient's eyes — taken with a specialized retinal camera — to a cloud server. On the server, IDx-DR applies an AI algorithm to analyze the images and determines whether the patient has more than a mild case of diabetic retinopathy. Diabetic retinopathy, a diabetes-related eye disease, is the most common cause of vision loss among diabetes patients in the U.S.

If the software detects more than mild diabetic retinopathy, it suggests referring the patient to an eye care professional for more in-depth diagnostic evaluation. If IDx-DR does not detect the condition, it recommends the diabetes patient undergo a routine rescreen in 12 months.

For the University of Iowa Health Care, the device allows providers at the diabetes and endocrinology center at UI Health Care-Iowa River Landing in Coralville — who aren't typically involved in eye care — to use the device to complete patients' annual diabetic retinopathy screenings.

"Early detection of diabetic retinopathy is an essential component of comprehensive diabetes care. This innovation further strengthens our ability to provide state-of-the-art care for our patients with diabetes," E. Dale Abel, MD, PhD, director of the division of endocrinology and metabolism at UI Health Care, said in IDx's June 26 statement.

UI Health Care deployed IDx-DR at the Iowa River Landing site June 12, and plans to expand the use of the software across the health system.

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