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On a mission to democratize eye care, Toku Eyes takes its technology to the United States

The company uses artificial intelligence to detect eye health, as well as cardiovascular disease

There are 43 million people in the world who are blind, and another 295 million have moderate to severe visual impairment. The staggering number is the number of those people with a disease that could have been prevented or cured: nearly three-quarters of the people, which means there are nearly 300 million people who should have had vision, but couldn’t.

According to Ehsan Vajifi, co-founder and CEO of Toku Eyes, one of the biggest obstacles is access to sponsorship. His father was blinded as a child, which led him to develop an artificial intelligence platform for more accurate and accessible healthcare diagnoses through eye exams.

“As I got older, and learned more, it was interesting that a lot of these blindness diseases that I see in my friends or family members are pretty much preventable. They just don’t have access to care; most of the time, they don’t even have access to the first checkup, The first discovery.

“My research has always been about devising new technologies that could enable someone to get an eye exam, cheaply, affordably, everywhere, so you wouldn’t need a doctor, because the clinician is probably the most expensive part of the system.”

Auckland, New Zealand-based Toku Eyes achieves this with its two products: the first, called THEIA, an artificial intelligence platform that can look at images of the eye, without the need for a doctor, and quickly see if they need it. to go see a doctor. The second product, called ORAiCLE, uses artificial intelligence to recognize minute changes in the blood vessels of capillaries to determine a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease, such as a stroke or heart attack.

The company, which currently lives in New Zealand and India, and is used by a million people so far, announced Monday that it will expand its services to a new market: the United States.

Detecting heart disease through the eye

While the idea behind THEIA was Providing patients with access to a simple eye health check through their primary care physician, the company quickly realized that it could detect more conditions like Dr.Diabetic retinopathy, AMD, and cataracts. He can already detect it Cardiovascular disease through changes in the blood vessels in the back of the eye.

“These changes are small and the doctor’s eye is not trained to look for them in an image, but the AI ​​can see them. So, about a year ago, we realized that our AI not only shows us eye disease, sometimes it shows us a common disease associated with an eye disease” .

“A lot of times a blinding condition is an alternative sign of something else. For example, you have high blood pressure, and it bleeds in your eye, which leads to blindness, or you have diabetes, which causes blood to leak into the eye which leads to leads to blindness.”

While Ophthalmologists and ophthalmologists tend only to see these changes in the final stages of the disease, when the problem has already reached the point where it is noticeable, ORAiCLE can detect them initially, years before disease onset, which means the patient gets a head start on Solve the potential problem before it’s too late.

The Toku Eyes platform is already being used as part of the diabetes screening service in both the public and private sectors in New Zealand. She also lives in 20 clinics in India with a goal of becoming 70 by the end of the year. To date, about 1 million people have used Toku products in both countries.

To date, THIA has proven to be 96% accurate in its diagnosis, compared to 90% for general ophthalmologists, while ORAiCLE is 25% more accurate in calculating. Cardiovascular risk assessment tools American Heart Association and Mayo Clinic websites.

In terms of ROI, Toku has been shown to reduce the cost of examination, and increase the capacity of the same clinic, by 50% in New Zealand.

Expansion in the United States

While THIA currently serves as an eye disease diagnostic tool, ORAiCLE is designated as a risk assessment tool (although the company hopes to change that over the next few years). As such, ORAiCLE will only initially be available in the US, where the company is currently seeking FDA approval to bring Thea to market as well, something Vagifi expects to happen by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, Toku has partnered with two companies to help bring its technology to patients in America, the first being EyeCheq, a company that puts robotic kiosks in retail locations. The company will integrate Toku’s software so patients can walk up to a booth and have their eyes snapped on the spot.

“They wanted to have a whole team of doctors in the background, to evaluate all the images that come from these kiosks. Our collaboration with them is that you don’t need a team of doctors, you just need a validator or auditors, and the AI ​​will look at all the images and alert those who need to see a doctor.”

“Also, we can also identify people at risk for cardiovascular disease, and then work with that retailer, and thus the location where the camera is located, to see what other services can be offered to that person, including counseling, supplementation, and education.”

Other partnership with Unified-Imaging, A photo repository platform that collects photos from camera manufacturers. Toku will work with the company to be more than Data analytics platform.

“Based on these images, you can tell a lot about this person. So, not only may that person get a referral, but they may also be linked to these other points, like heart disease or kidney disease,” Fagfe said.

Through these and other partnerships, Toku Eyes plans, subject to the termination of regulatory approvals, to have a presence in more than 1,500 locations across the United States by 2025.

Of course, there are challenges that come with entering the US health market, not the least of which is determining who will pay for it. Unlike New Zealand which has The public health system, which means that the government pays for everything, the US health market is more complex.

“Day and night are consumers with who pays. The United States is interesting because there is a CPT code for using artificial intelligence to analyze eye images. That’s one path; that code has been adopted by Medicare and Medicaid. So, we’re looking at that, but at the same time, we think that A cardiovascular product is very much an insurance product or a value care provider,” Fagvey explained.

“He could tell the HMO or the insurance company, ‘Your general risk to your population is this and that’s 5% of your population that will take up 50% of the total cost. If you focus on this population, and reduce the incidence in that 5% of the population, you will save more than 50% of the entire intervention budget. We think there’s an angle there. But, again, there is a little work to be done.”

Make eye care accessible to everyone

All of this will help Toku’s larger mission, which is to expand access to care, and help prevent treatable illnesses from turning into something that causes blindness, or other serious health problems.

For this reason, Toku intentionally made it so that its software could work with any camera, so anyone could access and use it.

“Some other AI systems are very limited by high quality, good quality and best quality cameras. We don’t. The technology is only good if it is available to the lowest socioeconomic group in society, i.e. a person who may not be. They are able to afford to go and see a specialist. They may not even bear to go to see a doctor, but they should have access to technology.”

“If it’s not available at Walmart or CVS or something like that, it means it doesn’t meet my criteria. So, that’s why we put a lot of time and effort into our AI that can work with less, perhaps less technology, and a camera that can CVS provided them on site, not the $50,000 camera that your eye care professional would use, but the $5,000 camera that could fit in your subway station.”

In fact, the company eventually plans to allow patients to take pictures of themselves on their mobile phones, something that is likely to be widely adopted due to the rise in virtual care and telemedicine during COVID.

This should finally make it so that more people do not face the same situation as Vagifi’s father and lose their sight due to a disease that could have been prevented if caught early.

“What bothers me, and what keeps me going, is that my father lost his sight 60 years ago, and today, the same thing can happen to someone else, another child who seems to have no access. We’ve had 60 years of technological innovation and nothing has changed in healthcare This is the thing that bothers me.”

“It’s all about making sure that someone from a low-income family, perhaps in a remote place, and not a well-educated family, still has access to a basic level of health, an eye exam or a cardiovascular exam. Nobody has to die, or They go blind, because they couldn’t get a simple check. This is not acceptable anymore.”

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