Maria Znamenska

Ph.D. Ophthalmology

Reading time

9 min read

Today patients are curious about AI, but they may also have some reservations. Researches suggest a cautious attitude towards autonomous AI in healthcare, but what happens when AI becomes a collaborative tool, assisting eye care professionals in educating and treating patients? This shift in focus can significantly affect patients’ comfort levels and acceptance of AI.

Patients have some concerns about AI in healthcare. Let’s delve into the patient perspective and discover how addressing these apprehensions and implementing AI-assisted OCT in eye care can lead to a better understanding of the technology and, ultimately, healthier outcomes.

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How do patients react to AI?

Interestingly, while surveys extensively document how eye care professionals feel about and interact with AI, the perspectives of the main beneficiary—the patient—remain less understood. The limited research available indicates mixed feelings towards this technology. Few studies examine patient attitudes toward AI in healthcare and eye care, suggesting a degree of caution. 

Infographic on patient education: 94% of patients want patient education content

However, these studies have focused on scenarios where AI fully replaces human healthcare providers. Patients demonstrated significant resistance to medical AI in these cases driven mostly by “uniqueness neglect” – concern that AI providers are less able than humans to account for a person’s unique characteristics and circumstances.

For example,  in the “Resistance to Medical Artificial Intelligence” study, participants demonstrated less interest in using a stress assessment and were willing to pay less for it when administered by an automated system rather than a human, even with equivalent accuracy. Additionally, participants showed a weaker preference for a provider offering clearly superior performance if it was an AI system. 

A survey of 926 patients reveals a mix of attitudes towards AI in healthcare but also gives us clues to understand the reasons behind it. While a majority believe AI could improve care, there’s also a significant undercurrent of caution:

  • Desire for Transparency: Over 95% of respondents felt it was either very or somewhat important to know if AI played a significant role in their diagnosis or treatment.
  • Unexplainable AI = Uncomfortable: Over 70% expressed discomfort with receiving an accurate diagnosis from an AI system that couldn’t explain its reasoning. This discomfort was more pronounced among those unsure about AI’s overall impact on healthcare.
  • Application Matters: Patients were more comfortable with AI for analyzing chest X-rays than for making cancer diagnoses.
  • Minority Concerns: Respondents from racial and ethnic minority groups expressed higher levels of concern about potential AI downsides, such as misdiagnosis, privacy breaches, reduced clinician interaction, and increased costs.

These findings highlight the importance of being transparent with patients about how AI is used in their care. Explaining the role of AI and reassuring patients that it’s a tool for assisting your clinical judgment (not replacing it) will be essential. Additionally, being mindful of potential heightened concerns among minority patients is crucial for providing equitable care.

A study solely focused on overcoming patients’ resistance to AI in healthcare found that demonstrating social proof (like highlighting satisfied customer reviews) increased trust in AI-involved help.

The team has identified several additional strategies for reducing patient apprehension of AI recommendations. One effective approach is to emphasize AI’s collaborative nature, where a human doctor endorses recommendations. This highlights AI as a tool to assist, not replace, physicians. Demonstrating AI capabilities through real-world examples where AI exhibits nuanced reasoning can also encourage greater reliance on the technology.  

How to attract patients with AI in eye care

AI offers a powerful way to transform your practice and set yourself apart. It brings world-class diagnostic expertise directly to your community, potentially saving patients’ sight by catching eye diseases in their earliest stages. Here’s how to position AI for patients:

  • Emphasize Early Detection

It brings world-class diagnostic expertise directly to your community, potentially saving patients’ sight by catching eye diseases in their earliest stages, including early signs of glaucoma, AMD, and many other pathologies that would often be invisible during a regular visit. Some retinal changes are so microscopic that they elude the human eye, making the program’s ability to detect tiny retinal changes invaluable. This makes AI a powerful tool during routine exams, potentially uncovering issues you may not even have been aware of as a patient.

  • More time for personalized care

Patients expect personalized experiences, and AI empowers you to deliver exactly that. By analyzing each patient’s unique OCT image data, AI helps identify potential pathologies with greater accuracy. 

Additionally, since AI acts as a meticulous assistant, double-checking your assessments and minimizing the risk of missed diagnoses, it frees up your time. This allows for more meaningful one-on-one conversations with patients, where you can explain their results and discuss the next steps, setting your practice apart regarding patient satisfaction.

  • Your old good eye care professional, but with superpower

With AI-assisted OCT, you have the combined knowledge and experience of leading eye care specialists at your fingertips for every patient. This technology leverages massive datasets of medical images and clinical data meticulously analyzed by retinal experts during AI development.  It is a valuable second opinion tool, helping you confirm diagnoses and identify subtle patterns the human eye might miss.

AI-assisted OCT in eye care: кetina specialists of Altris AI segmenting pathologies to teach AI detect them

This offers your patients peace of mind – knowing their diagnosis has been informed by insights from a team of experts incorporated into the AI’s analysis.

It’s crucial to emphasize that AI will never replace the human touch. It’s a powerful tool that frees up your time for what matters most: building trust through personalized care and addressing patient concerns with empathy.

How to explain what AI is to patients 

AI color coding in eye care, segmented by pixels pathologies on OCT

Patient understanding is vital for building trust with you and any technology you use. It is especially important when talking about a sophisticated instrument like AI.

For instance, we’ve found that patients sometimes struggle to understand how Altris AI, our AI-powered OCT analysis tool, works. We’ve crafted an explanation that helps them grasp the concept more quickly, covering how retinal specialists have taught the system to do its job, the AI’s role as a doctor’s help, and direct benefits for patients.

OCT scans provide incredibly detailed images of the retina, the important layer at the back of your eye.  Eye doctors carefully analyze these scans to spot any potential problems.  To make this process even more thorough, AI systems are now being used to assist with OCT analysis.

How does the system know how to do that? Real doctors have taught it. It works by first learning from thousands of OCT scans graphically labeled by experienced eye doctors. 

The doctors analyzed images from real patients to detect and accurately measure over 70 pathologies and signs of pathology, including age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma, teaching the AI what to look for.

The system leverages a massive dataset of thousands of OCT scans collected from 11 ophthalmic clinics over the years. Carefully segmented and labeled by retinal professionals, these scans were used to train the AI. By analyzing each pixel of an image and its position relative to others, the AI has learned to distinguish between different biomarkers and pathologies.

The platform visualizes what is going on with the retina using color coding. This means that every problem on the OCT scan will be colored differently and signed so you will be able to understand what is going on with your retina.

Biomarkers detected by Altris AI on OCT

As with any innovative tool, Altris AI partially automates some routine tasks, so clinicians have more time for what is important: talking to patients, learning more about their eye health, and providing treatment advice.

Why does this matter to you? Altris AI can help spot even the tiniest changes in your eyes, leading to earlier treatment and better protection of your eye health. Knowing a smart computer system is also double-checking your scans gives both you and your doctor extra confidence in the results.

With the help of Altris AI, you will be able to see how the treatment affects you.  For example, if you have fluid in the retina (that is not supposed to be there), you will be able to see if its volume is decreasing or increasing with the help of color coding. 

Detected by AI for OCT, Altris AI, biomarkers of Fibrovascular RPE Detachment on OCT scan: RPE disruption, Fibrovascular RPE Detachment , Subretinal fluid, Ellipsoid zone disruption

Altris AI was designed by eye doctors for eye doctors. It’s a tool to help us take even better care of patients.

AI color coding in eye care: how learning about diagnosis influences treatment adherence

Patient-centered care, a key principle outlined by the Institute of Medicine, emphasizes patient education and involvement in decision-making. This is vital in ophthalmology, where insufficient patient engagement can lead to irreversible blindness.

Research specifically targeting the ophthalmology patient population, which often includes older and potentially visually impaired individuals, reveals a clear preference for individualized education sessions and materials endorsed by their eye care provider. 

According to Wolters Kluwer Health, patients crave educational materials from their providers, yet only two-thirds actually get them. This leaves patients searching for information, potentially exposing them to unreliable sources. 

Providing clear, accessible patient education is crucial to ensure understanding and treatment adherence. 

The human brain’s ability to process visual information far surpasses its speed with text, making visual aids a powerful tool for health education. In the field of eye care, this becomes even more critical. Patients often experience vision difficulties, potentially hindering their ability to absorb written materials. Providing clear visual representations of diagnoses can significantly improve patient understanding and compliance. 

A study shows a strong preference for personalized educational materials, especially among older visually impaired patients. Seeing photos of their condition, like glaucoma progression, builds trust and reinforces the importance of treatment recommendations.

Surveying eye care professionals specializing in dry eye disease revealed a strong emphasis on visual aids during patient education. Photodocumentation is a favored tool for demonstrating the condition to asymptomatic patients, tracking progress, and highlighting the positive outcomes of treatment.

A visual approach is particularly motivating for patients. It provides tangible evidence of the benefits of their treatment investment, allowing for a deeper understanding of the “why” behind treatment recommendations and paving the way for ongoing collaboration with the patient.

Understanding complex eye conditions can be challenging for patients. Altris AI aims to bridge this gap by using color coding for pathologies and their signs, severity grading, and pathology progression over time within its OCT analysis.

With Altris AI, scans are color-coded for instant interpretation: all the detected pathologies are painted in different colors, highlighting the littlest bits that the unprepared eye of a patient would miss otherwise.

AI in eye care: patient education through doctor explanation to patient color coded OCT scan, segmented by Altris AI, AI for OCT

This easy-to-understand visual system empowers patients. They can clearly see what’s happening within their eyes and track the progress of any conditions during treatment.

Eye care professionals are enthusiastic about its impact.

Quote of Scott Sedlacek, OD, on color coding patient education through Altris AI

The power of visuals goes beyond understanding a diagnosis. When patients see the interconnected structures that make up their vision, they gain a deeper appreciation for its complexity and the importance of preventative care. This understanding fosters a true partnership between doctor and patient, where the patient is an active, informed participant in their own eye health.

Summing up

FDA-cleared AI for OCT analysis

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Patients are increasingly curious and open to AI’s potential in general healthcare and eye care in particular, but naturally, some questions and hesitation remain. They stem from a desire to ensure AI considers their individual needs. By addressing these concerns proactively and clarifying when and how AI is used in their care, emphasize the collaborative doctor-AI model—highlight that YOU review and endorse all AI recommendations.

You can successfully integrate this powerful technology into your practice by addressing patient concerns with empathy and highlighting AI’s benefits. This leads to a more informed and empowered patient experience, improving understanding, adherence to treatment, and, ultimately, better health outcomes.