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Bupa Optical using AI to check patients’ heart health

Optometry chain Bupa Optical is offering a service using artificial intelligence (AI) to assess a patient’s heart health when they turn up for an eye exam.

The network has introduced its Microvascular Health Assessment – an addition to the EyeInspect AI platform – that Bupa says is bridging the gap between eyecare and general healthcare.

Specifically, it aims to detect underlying health problems to help Bupa patients better understand whether they are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease. New 2023 research suggests as many as 66% of people susceptible to heart disease are unaware they are at risk.

To date, the Microvascular Health Assessment has graded 3% of Bupa patients whose heart health risk rating has been assessed by the tool as “poor”, with Bupa optometrists subsequently advising them to see their doctor for possible further tests and discussions before many knew they had a potential health issue.

Mr Guneet Sawhney, director Bupa Optical & Hearing, said the test compares a patient’s eyes with a database of retinal images within seconds to check for similarities to other conditions that may be a sign of a potential heart issue.

“The eye is a window into the heart and the only place in the body where people can get a direct, non-invasive view of a person’s blood vessels which can tell a broad story about an individual’s current and future health risks,” he said.

“Through our Microvascular Health Assessment tool, we’re extending routine eye tests into broader non-invasive health checks which can be referred to a medical professional if any red flags come up. This makes heart health monitoring more accessible for everyday Australians.”

The announcement comes in the lead-up to World Heart Day aimed at promoting better heart health practices such as eating better, exercising more and regularly monitoring your health. Globally, cardiovascular disease reportedly kills more than 20.5 million people every year and accounts for one in four Australian deaths.

“We truly believe this technology, which is available as an add-on to a standard eye test, can help customers better understand their underlying heart health,” Guneet said.

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