The Data Scientist - the WPC Healthcare Blog

The Taproot Cloud Super Computer Eyeballs Diabetic Eye Disease


Utilizing Data Science to Deliver Software Second Opinions

At WPC Healthcare, there is no problem that data science can’t improve—that’s our motto anyway. We’ve found another stunning application recently in collaboration between WPC Chief Data Scientist Damian Mingle and HCA Senior Architect Alan Scott.

This solution involves the more than 10 million Americans (and 93 million people globally) who suffer with diabetic retinopathy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common diabetic eye disease and a leading cause of blindness in adults. It is caused by changes in the blood vessels of the retina. In some people with diabetic retinopathy, blood vessels may swell and leak fluid. In other people, abnormal new blood vessels grow on the surface of the retina. All cause vision loss and may lead to blindness.

Diabetic retinopathy has four stages: mild, moderate, severe, and proliferative.

So what’s the problem?

The issue is that the stage is determined subjectively by the ophthalmologist leading to significant variance from provider and thereby treatment.

How can data science help?

It starts with a super computer (think GPU not CPU)
You need power to integrate graphics cards with 3,000 cores processing half a million physician-labeled images. This massive data set is then used to teach the machine to make proper staging selections. Organizing that data in preparation for analysis is no small feat, but was made easier with the support of Alan Scott and the team at HCA.

Then comes analysis
By creating a unique algorithm to select the right stage through a rigorous benchmarking process, the software creates an automated scoring system. The end result is a software second opinion that could be added to existing equipment at the point of care to ensure more accurate diagnosis and treatment for diabetics with impending vision loss.

This comes down to math really. An ophthalmologist may see 10,000 eyeballs in a lifetime, but data science software can be infused with the intelligence gleaned from reviewing 500,000 eyeballs providing a provider with oversight—a second opinion. This process creates the opportunity to significantly improve quality that leads to lower costs and better management of a long-term chronic condition. That’s what we call a win/win at WPC.