Peter Thomas

Peter Thomas is a research-active Consultant Ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and the associated NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology. He is also the Director of Digital Innovation at Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

What was your journey to ophthalmology?

“I actually started my working life at IBM before going to University. My undergrad started in Physics and Maths, but I became interested in neuroscience and changed subjects. After another period with IBM I undertook a PhD in computational neuroscience at Cambridge. I wanted to do something that wasn’t straight academia after that so went to medical school at Oxford to become a doctor. I then decided to specialise in ophthalmology and from there I’ve been lucky enough to combine all my interests and knowledge to become the Director of Digital Innovation, bringing my skills together.”

Can you tell us about your current research?

I would say I’ve got two main focuses at the moment.

I am active in vision research here and at the Vision Lab at the Department of Psychology in Cambridge where we are modelling how colour deficient people see the world. We are focusing on the professional aspects of colour deficiency for example, firefighters, the police, pilots and medics. There are no working restrictions for colour deficient doctors whereas there are restrictions on other professions. Around eight percent of male doctors are likely to be colour deficient and we want to make sure they are supported in working as efficiently as possible. We recently published a short paper in the British Journal of Anaesthesia identifying potential confusion (for colour deficient doctors) in the colour-codes used for different drug classes. We suggested from our findings that the system could be made safer by including lines and patterns to distinguish the labels and reduce the potential for error. We are looking at more of these changes across medicine.

I am also working on projects in the clinical application of Artificial Intelligence here. I’m not so much interested in specific clinical domains but rather focusing on areas where AI is felt to be less applicable – communicating with patients, analysing visual behaviour, and detecting patients who might be receiving treatment for the wrong diagnosis (for example patients with pituitary tumours in a glaucoma clinic).

I am also working on some other exciting AI projects with Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust that will be announced soon!”

Can you tell us how you are supported by the NIHR Moorfields Biomedical Research Centre?

“Yes, the BRC support me by providing a research session.”

What do you think the future holds for ophthalmology?

“I believe that services and care will be improved by automation. Not by the removal of ‘people’ but by the assistance and support of AI and other tools to expedite diagnostics and the management of patients. I believe this will translate globally and mean that more people can be treated across the world and much quicker.”