OBJECTIVE: Diabetic retinopathy (DR) may lead to irreversible damage to the eye and cause blindness if diagnosed in its advanced stages. Artificial intelligence (AI) may support screening and contribute to a timely diagnosis. The aim of this study was to evaluate factors that might influence the success of implementing AI-supported devices for DR screenings in general practice.
METHODS: A questionnaire with modules on attitudes toward digital solutions, technical factors, perceived patient perspectives, and sociodemographic data was constructed and 2100 general practitioners (GPs) in Germany were invited to participate via a personal letter.
RESULTS: Two hundred nine physicians participated in the survey (10% response rate, mean age = 54 years, 46% women). Acquisition costs (mean = 1.37), remuneration (mean = 1.46), and running costs (mean = 1.40) were considered particularly relevant in the context of AI-based screening tools. GPs indicated that a mean of €27.00 (SD = 19) was considered to be an appropriate reimbursement for an AI-based screening for DR in their practice. Less relevant factors were availability of a smartphone used in the practice (mean = 2.53) and time until the examination result was available (mean = 2.29). Important technical factors were practicability of the device (mean = 1.27), unproblematic installation of any necessary software (mean = 1.34), and the integrability into the practice information system (mean = 1.44). Considering the patient welfare, physicians rated the accuracy of the examination, omission of pupil dilation, and the duration of the examination as the most important factors. Participants ranked the factors broadening the scope of care, strengthening the primary care (PC) range, and signs of modern medical practice as the most important factors for making an AI-based screening tool attractive for their practice.
CONCLUSIONS: These findings serve as a basis for a successful implementation of AI-assisted screening devices in PC and might facilitate early screenings for ophthalmological diseases in general practice. The most relevant barriers that need to be overcome for a successful implementation of such tools include clarification of the costs and reimbursement policies.