It is estimated that in Hong Kong approximately 10% of individuals aged 35 to 64 suffer from diabetes, with 30% of them developing diabetic retinopathy (DR, commonly known as diabetic eye), and facing risk of blindness. However, the current shortage of manpower in the public healthcare system is delaying timely and appropriate treatment.


In light of this, PolyU and OPTICAL 88 launched a DR screening project for diabetic patients in March 2024, titled “AI Diabetic Retinopathy Screening Research Project”, with an aim to relieve the pressure on the public healthcare services’ primary eye care sector. This screening project is funded by the Hong Kong Government’s Global STEM Professorship Scheme, under its “Smart primary healthcare and eyecare service: From data to algorithms and real-world solutions” project.


To conduct diabetic eye screening for eligible personnel, a portable self-testing retinal fundus camera with custom artificial intelligence (AI) and mechanical automation systems will be used. The camera was invented by PolyU’s research team led by Prof. He Mingguang, PolyU Chair Professor of Experimental Ophthalmology of the School of Optometry, Global STEM Scholar under the Global STEM Professorship Scheme and Henry G. Leong Professor in Elderly Vision Health.


The camera has not only resolved the limitations of traditional retinal fundus camera equipment but has also enabled small-scale and low-cost self-testing medical screening, revolutionising the primary eye care sector. It can be used to assist in diagnosing retinal and optic nerve diseases, such as DR, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma, with a proven accuracy of 98.9% in detecting referable DR. The application of this AI fundus photography technology in the primary eye care sector is expected to help resolve issues of high healthcare cost and shortage of manpower.


OPTICAL 88 is the first optical chain to employ the self-testing retinal fundus camera with custom AI and mechanical automation, with the systems installed in two of its retail shops. It is recruiting people to participate in the screening project.