RIYADH: Saudi telecommunications firm stc has signed a deal with a health technology company to provide vital checks for eye problems caused by diabetes.
SDM’s screening technology not only identifies if patients have the blood sugar condition but also notifies them of what stage the disease has reached and if medical intervention is required.
The memorandum of understanding agreement on the use of diabetic retinopathy screening through artificial intelligence was inked by Saad Al-Rabiah, stc’s new business development manager, and Prof. Selwa Al-Hazzaa, founder and chief executive officer of SDM, at the stc booth during the recent LEAP 2023 conference.
Al-Hazzaa told Arab News: “This took us about four years; we got the Saudi FDA (Food and Drug Authority) approval. We got the SDAIA (Saudi Data and Artificial Intelligence Authority) regulations to approve it. And, then we went to the Ministry of Health.
“SDM is probably the first technological company that deals with retinal image analysis. In simple words, we take a picture of the back of the eye, and we are able to analyze it. And through this analysis, we can figure out what the different stages of diabetes are in the eye.”
Describing stc as “digitally able, an enabler,” and a company that could “take this and fly with it all over the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” she said: “What this artificial intelligence does, or the SDM smart thinker does, is decrease the human resources of any entity.
“It will reduce costs and waiting times for patients having to come in to get an appointment in the hospital, or even in the clinic having to wait.
“And most important, we’re moving it out of the hospitals to decrease patient waiting lists. That will definitely make a big difference when it comes to digital transformation,” she added.
Al-Hazzaa pointed out that the screening technology would help to cut the Kingdom’s spending on diabetic retinopathy.
The World Health Organization has estimated there to be more than 7 million diabetics in Saudi Arabia.
“The only way to do it (examinations) is through automation. Automation has to kick in,” she said.
She noted that 75 percent of the country’s population was not being monitored.
“These patients, ultimately if they don’t get good care, will go blind. I wanted to be able to reach the patients that could not reach the specialized hospitals.”
Inclusivity has been a major driver of Al-Hazzaa’s mission in growing SDM smart thinker, creating accessible and accurate detection that all patients in the Kingdom can have.
“If you need good-quality care, you have to be able to reach a hospital with this technology.
“Its sensitivity is very high. Its sensitivity is much higher than your general ophthalmologist. It’s much more sensitive than that of the board-certified ophthalmologist,” she added.