Reducing Ophthalmic Health Disparities Through Transfer Learning: A Novel Application to Overcome Data Inequality

Tingfang Lee, Gadi Wollstein, Chisom T. Madu, Andrew Wronka, Lei Zheng, Ronald Zambrano, Joel S. Schuman, Jiyuan Hu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Race disparities in the healthcare system and the resulting inequality in clinical data among different races hinder the ability to generate equitable prediction results. This study aims to reduce healthcare disparities arising from data imbalance by leveraging advanced transfer learning (TL) methods. Method: We examined the ophthalmic healthcare disparities at a population level using electronic medical records data from a study cohort (N = 785) receiving care at an academic institute. Regression-based TL models were usesd, transferring valuable information from the dominant racial group (White) to improve visual field mean deviation (MD) rate of change prediction particularly for data-disadvantaged African American (AA) and Asian racial groups. Prediction results of TL models were compared with two conventional approaches. Results: Disparities in socioeconomic status and baseline disease severity were observed among the AA and Asian racial groups. The TL approach achieved marked to comparable improvement in prediction accuracy compared to the two conventional approaches as evident by smaller mean absolute errors or mean square errors. TL identified distinct key features of visual field MD rate of change for each racial group. Conclusions: The study introduces a novel application of TL that improved reliability of the analysis in comparison with conventional methods, especially in small sample size groups. This can improve assessment of healthcare disparity and subsequent remedy approach.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2
JournalTranslational Vision Science and Technology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2023


  • disease progression prediction
  • electronic medical record data
  • healthcare disparities
  • transfer learning

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Biomedical Engineering


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