PRECISE Center is at the forefront of AI-assisted care in ophthalmology

The Penn Research in Embedded Computing and Integrated Systems Engineering, or PRECISE, Center is examining how AI can be deployed to enhance and expand clinical practice.

It may not always be apparent to the naked eye, but yearly ophthalmology exams are at the forefront of two emerging trends in health care: artificial intelligence (AI) and precision medicine, where treatment is tailored to the individual’s genes, lifestyle and environment, among other factors.

Osbert Bastani, Sooyong Jang, Shuo Li, Jean Park, Claire Kendell, Kuk Jin Jang, Insup Lee
From left to right: Osbert Bastani, Sooyong Jang, Shuo Li, Jean Park, Claire Kendell, Kuk Jin Jang, and Insup Lee. (Image: Courtesy of Penn Engineering Today)

With its large emphasis on imaging and cutting-edge technology including lasers, gene therapy and other approaches to care, ophthalmology is a natural fit for research on precision medicine and the use of AI. Research taking place at the Penn Research in Embedded Computing and Integrated Systems Engineering, or PRECISE, Center is examining how AI can be deployed to bring clinical practice to the next level, yielding powerful results that could one day even help prevent blindness. Ultimately, these techniques can also strengthen the patient-doctor relationship and clinical care by helping patients better understand their disease in an accessible way.

There are a lot of unanswered, but clinically relevant questions and scenarios that Penn Engineering’s PRECISE Center seeks to address, such as how to assess visual acuity in nonresponsive patients. Research at PRECISE also focuses on what can be accomplished in the health care sector using generative AI, which is AI that creates new content, including text, audio and videos, and large language models (LLMs).

“Generative AI can enhance patient-clinician interactions by providing visual aids and simulations that help patients better understand their conditions and treatment options, which in turn fosters greater trust, stronger communication and more empowered patients who feel confident in actively participating in their own care,” says Insup Lee, Cecilia Fitler Moore Professor in Computer and Information Science (CIS) and director of PRECISE. “LLMs could enhance patient engagement and support, including providing personalized information to patients and decision support to doctors by analyzing medical records and extracting valuable insights. A key challenge for researchers will be aligning these technologies with human expertise and clinical judgment.”

Four projects focused on the use of AI in ophthalmology are currently underway in the PRECISE Center. The first involves improving vision tests on vulnerable populations. The Center is also developing machine learning as an alternative way of measuring vision. It also uses multimodal AI to detect abnormality or disease. And lastly, the PRECISE Center is prioritizing trustworthiness in AI applications by focusing on creating AI and machine learning systems that deliver dependable and accurate results, even when answering highly complicated questions.

Read more at Penn Engineering Today.