Breakthroughs in Eye Care at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute

Dr. Ranya Habash is Chief Innovation and Technology Officer at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute. To learn more about Bascom Palmer’s partnership with Microsoft or to make an appointment, call 888-845-0002 or visit the University of Miami's health news blog.


Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, ranked the #1 eye hospital in the country for the past 17 years, is forging a new frontier in patient care that uses artificial intelligence to tackle some of the most pressing problems in ophthalmology.

Dr. Ranya Habash, Chief Innovation and Technology Officer at Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, is the lead investigator of the Microsoft AI Network for Eyecare (MINE), a project that uses data gathered from eye exams at Bascom Palmer and other sites around the world to “train” the computer to diagnose and aid in treating conditions such as glaucoma, myopia, macular degeneration, and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Over the past two years we've worked with Microsoft to create a platform for analyzing vast amounts of data in a fraction of the time it would take a human being,” says Dr. Habash. “This allows us to generate algorithms to answer some of the biggest questions plaguing ophthalmology today; these answers can help us prevent blindness around the world.” 

According to Dr. Habash, the power of MINE is its scale. Whereas some of the most robust medical studies are based on data from hundreds of patients, more than 1.1 million patient records from around the world are currently being analyzed by MINE’s cloud-based infrastructure to determine patterns in eye diseases. 

The data comes from patients from different geographical areas and diverse backgrounds. “You can just imagine what a rich set of data we have,” says Dr. Habash. “With all these datasets, we can keep training the machine until it gets better and better, just like you’d train a puppy or a child to learn a task.”

Lilian Ferland is one of the patients hoping to benefit from her participation in MINE. Lilian recently learned she may have glaucoma, a condition that can lead to blindness. When her ophthalmologist suggested she see a specialist, she turned to Dr. Habash and her team at Bascom Palmer.

With the MINE algorithm for glaucoma, Lilian will have a clearer idea of her risk of developing glaucoma. “We are using machine learning to train a machine to recognize glaucoma just like a glaucoma expert would,” says Dr. Habash. 

The goal is to give patients a personalized risk score in real time, says Dr. Habash. “They’ll know much more definitively if they’re going to develop it, if they’re going to need medications to treat it, or if they’re likely to need surgery for it one day.”

In the case of glaucoma, there are several factors analyzed, including eye pressure, corneal thickness, visual field tests, photos, and optical coherence tomography, which is similar to a CT scan of the eye. All of this information builds on the machine’s ability to recognize and assess patients with glaucoma.

“I feel so much more confident about this new technology that's going to come around soon. I'm looking forward to it,” says Lilian.

“This is customized medicine,” says Dr. Habash. “We can say that according to you, and all the factors that make you who you are, we can predict your risk of developing a certain eye disease, and therefore how we should treat it. Knowing this information ahead of time can prevent blindness.  It’s precision medicine, and it’s the future.”


Focusing on You: Innovations in Modern Medicine is a series of healthcare-related stories airing regularly on WPLG Local 10. For more stories like this one, visit YouTube channels for UHealth, the University of Miami Health System.

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