Artificial intelligence technologies and virtual care opportunities have been pushed to the forefront during the COVID-19 pandemic and may change the way health care is provided worldwide post-pandemic, a Microsoft executive said during an Eyecelerator LiveStream presentation.

“Virtual care has always been such an incredible focus and has had such potential. We were all looking at 2020 as the possible time of breakthrough, but then COVID-19 hit, and we’ve seen overnight the world go virtual. This could not be a more critical time to provide care and access to those in need, not only in your practices, but around the world,” Gregory J. Moore, MD, PhD, Microsoft Health corporate vice president, said during the event.

In the third of a series of events hosted by Eyecelerator, ophthalmic industry leaders and medical representatives discussed the available and emerging digital health technologies that may have an impact on patient care during the pandemic.

Although specialty care and appointments are nearly nonexistent now in many clinics, around 30% of those would-be in-person visits have been replaced with virtual visits, either by video or phone, Moore said.

The expedited transition of health care to telehealth is one that Microsoft and many in the medical industry believe will continue to persist after the pandemic. Four billion people around the world have no meaningful access to health care, and AI applications could bring health care to these people, Moore said.

Ophthalmology has been one of the first specialties to experience a meaningful impact from AI applications, which are already being used for diabetic retinopathy progression evaluation and macular degeneration screening, he said.

“We need tools that allow us to virtually engage with patients and their loves ones, to bring really rare expertise to those who need access to it remotely to provide a consistent experience … really go from beyond bricks and mortar to reduce cost and reduce a fragmented care system to get specialty care to where it’s needed,” he said. – by Robert Linnehan


ReInvent: Ophthalmology recovery and growth through digital innovations. Presented at: Eyecelerator LiveStream; April 29, 2020 (virtual meeting).

Disclosure: Moore reports he is the corporate vice president of Microsoft Health.