“We don’t just want this to be an academically interesting result – we want it to be used in real treatment. So our paper also takes on one of the key barriers for AI in clinical practice: the “black box” problem. For most AI systems, it’s very hard to understand exactly why they make a recommendation. That’s a huge issue for clinicians and patients who need to understand the system’s reasoning, not just its output – the why as well as the what.
Our system takes a novel approach to this problem, combining two different neural networks with an easily interpretable representation between them. The first neural network, known as the segmentation network, analyses the OCT scan to provide a map of the different types of eye tissue and the features of disease it sees, such as haemorrhages, lesions, irregular fluid or other symptoms of eye disease. This map allows eyecare professionals to gain insight into the system’s “thinking.” The second network, known as the classification network, analyses this map to present clinicians with diagnoses and a referral recommendation. Crucially, the network expresses this recommendation as a percentage, allowing clinicians to assess the system’s confidence in its analysis”.