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Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada Brings Ai-Driven Diabetic Eye Screening to Rural and Indigenous Communities

Program selects Eyenuk’s EyeArt AI system to make vision-saving screening more accessible in remote Ontario communities

Vision Loss Rehabilitation Canada  Canada’s leading provider of rehabilitation therapy and healthcare services for individuals with vision loss, and Eyenuk, Inc., a global artificial intelligence (AI) medical technology and services company and the leader in real-world applications for AI Eye Screening™ and AI Predictive Biomarkers™, announced the launch of VLRC’s Eye Health Screening Initiative to screen rural, remote and Indigenous populations in Northern and Eastern Ontario for diabetic retinopathy (DR), the leading cause of blindness among working age adults, using Eyenuk’s autonomous AI technology.

Diabetic retinopathy is the most common form of diabetic eye disease. In Canada, 750,000 people have DR and the economic impact on the healthcare system is $1.2 billion annually. With early detection, timely treatment and appropriate follow-up care, the risk of vision loss can be reduced by 95 percent. Individuals living in remote and geographically isolated areas, indigenous communities and vulnerable populations are at risk for diabetes and vision loss due to DR due to lack of appropriate resources close to home. Availability of primary health care is often reduced, and access to secondary and tertiary care can be challenging or non-existent.

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VLRC aims to address the problem by making DR screening easily accessible in even the most remote locations with a care-closer-to-home approach utilizing trusted community providers. VLRC plans to provide 2,700 DR screenings over the next year in two of Ontario’s five regions.

“As the leading provider of vision rehabilitation therapy and healthcare services for individuals with vision loss in Canada, our goal is to deliver essential vision rehabilitation services, coordinate care for those impacted by vision loss and work with community partners to prevent vision loss and blindness utilizing Eyenuk’s globally-validated screening tool, licensed by Health Canada, that can detect diabetic retinopathy in 30-60 seconds,” said Jennifer Urosevic, President and CEO of VLRC.

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Eyenuk’s EyeArt  AI Eye Screening System is the first autonomous AI technology licensed by Health Canada for detection of DR. The ease of use and portability of the EyeArt system is key to the program’s goals. The EyeArt system provides automated DR screening without the need for expert human operation, grading, or eye dilation. That means imaging, grading, and reporting the results can be completed by virtually anyone with minimal training and without the need for an eye care specialist. The EyeArt system autonomously analyzes a patient’s retinal photos, detects signs of disease, and creates a report in less than 30 seconds compared to a traditional screening that can take days or even weeks to complete. Patients with positive results are referred to an ophthalmologist for care.

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VLRC is training local community providers to use the EyeArt technology and plans to scale the program across Canada to proactively reach every Canadian with an increased risk of DR. Current partners include more than a dozen community organizations such as the Indigenous Diabetes Health Circle (IDHC), Riverside Health Care, Atikokan, and the Waasegiizhig Nanaandawe’iyewigamig Health Access Center (WNHAC). The program provides increased awareness, access to screening, coordination of care, and vision rehabilitation. Screening will enable early detection which is key to reducing complications and improving health outcomes.

“Our partnerships with local community organizations give us the opportunity to provide culturally appropriate care closer to home in remote areas where there is a significant lack of access to eye care,” said Josie McGee, Vice President of Healthcare Innovation at VLRC. “Prior to launching this program, individuals in rural and remote Ontario communities would potentially have to drive two to three hours for an appointment and wait up to two weeks to receive results. Now, we can deliver screening results in less than 30 seconds within a client’s own community. It’s a true game changer.”

Before the introduction of VLRC’s Eye Health Screening Initiative, McGee said eye screens had to be done by a trained technician and every photo had to be reviewed by an ophthalmologist. Utilizing EyeArt’s AI screening system, only positive screens are being reviewed by ophthalmologists, increasing oth the cost effectiveness of the program and ophthalmologists’ capacity to review more screens for the patients who need their expertise the most. VLRC will be studying the impact of bringing screening to remote areas and will identify communities over the next year where the program can have the biggest impact.

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