Tomatoes and technology

1 November 2023
Autumn 2023

The College’s Clinical Editor, Jane Veys MCOptom, on the benefits and limitations of artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is increasingly being woven into our daily lives. It is a year now since ChatGPT was launched, and since then educational institutions continue to grapple with understanding how to manage ethics, effort and AI's credibility. ChatGPT has already been put to many uses, although there are also limitations – the generative coding used to receive, analyse and create a response could already be out of date. 

When I contemplate AI, the wonderful words of the late humorist Miles Kington come to mind: “Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit; wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.” As healthcare professionals we must advance our own knowledge of AI, ask intelligent questions to understand the benefits and limitations, and as a society make wise decisions on its development and use. Researchers must involve patients and practitioners at every step of development. We must understand and question the algorithms used, and ensure applicability to a wider population, regarding gender, age, ethnicity and more. Trust in the data is key. 

No one is in any doubt transformative changes are ahead. AI cannot replace human intuition and understanding, but when used in the right way it can help us in a number of powerful ways.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit – wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad

In the medical world, technology in all its forms will play an increasing role in optometry and ophthalmology. This brave new world is explored in the final part of our series on the ageing eye, a fascinating read and a look at what may be coming our way in the near future. Consider the benefit of AI helping with more accurate biometry. With cataract surgery being the most common operation in the UK, this could benefit the visual outcomes in more than half a million procedures every year. AI could assist with referrals too – image analysis could be triaged for secondary care. How many of us will be working alongside data analysts or digital managers in the future? 

From future technology possibilities to advances in treatment options already available, our article reviews the update to NICE guidance on the diagnosis and treatment of glaucoma. Can you explain the selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) procedure to your patients? Do you know who to recommend this to? Would you like to train to carry out the procedure yourself? A great read for those looking to update their knowledge and their skill-set.

Advancing technology and AI also hold promise in the detection and treatment of skin tumours around the eye. Early recognition systems and robotic-assisted orbital surgery are both discussed in our article on basal cell carcinomas. Although technology may help in detection and treatment, patient communication remains key for prevention. 

With autumn upon us, I’m off to my greenhouse now to pick the last of my cherry tomato crop – I might just try adding some to my fruit salad. The added colour might look good, although my wise tastebuds may disagree.

Jane Veys MSc MCOptom FIACLE

Jane has been involved in optometry for over 30 years and is an experienced educator, facilitator and scientific writer. She has published more than 50 articles, authored a leading contact lens textbook and created industry leading digital education series.

Image credit | Caroline-Andrieu

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