AI vs. the COVID-19 pandemic, a look at what is currently being done

The Healthcare industry is on the frontline, directly batting the COVID-19 pandemic. Healthcare providers can use all the help they can get to overcome this pandemic and provide critical services to those affected. Artificial Intelligence is aiming, in a big way, to play its part. 

AI has the potential to scan for symptoms, help in decision making, and aid in the effective triage of patients. This post examines the various ways in which AI can help in the fight against COVID-19

Detection of symptoms

the COVID-19 pandemic

The coronavirus is problematic because asymptomatic people can spread the virus without being aware. Early detection of these symptoms is now more than ever important to prevent further spread of infections. It can also enable a quicker reception of treatment.

Companies worldwide have announced numerous AI systems that can detect COVID-19 on chest CT or X-ray scans. AI has the ability to relieve radiologists of their workload reducing the time to review and prioritize a large number of patient chest scans.

RADLogics, a healthcare IT company, provided a data analytics platform for medical imaging while diagnosing COVID-19. It reports up to 98 percent accuracy, therefore implying that these AI systems will replace standard nucleic acid tests as the primary diagnostic tool for coronavirus infection.

A novel case of the application of AI-based tools for early detection of symptoms is the ongoing study conducted by the West Virginia University Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute and Oura Health. The RNI has developed a neuroscience platform that continuously monitors human physiology.

This platform makes use of an Oura Ring, designed to be worn on a finger and it is able to take measurements such as heart rate, HRV, temperature, and sleep patterns. The Oura Ring combines the use of a smartphone app and AI-guided models to predict the commencement of COVID-19 related symptoms such as fever, coughing, and breathing difficulties. It can forecast these symptoms quickly with over 90 percent accuracy.

With further research and developments, AI-powered technology has the potential to aid in decision making that helps in containing the spread of viral infections. It can determine decisions related to safely re-opening communities and facilitating public health containment strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Triage and diagnosis

The high rate of coronavirus infections during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a plethora of individuals flooding emergency rooms, impacting the triage capability of Healthcare professionals in determining critical cases and the need for intensive care. 

AI and healthcare organizations can come together to tackle this issue. AI systems in some medical centers around the United States have been used to predict the course of a patient’s illness. Now they are being repurposed and retooled into systems that predict outcomes that are specific to COVID-19, such as intubation and ventilation.

These AI-powered systems have learned about patterns of illness through data analysis taken from thousands of patients. Though there isn’t enough data from COVID patients to create new predictive tools, so researchers are studying the possibilities of customizing existing tools to help with the coronavirus pandemic.

Technology start-up Diagnostic Robotics has developed a triage and monitoring system to help healthcare organizations. The tool aims to lessen the healthcare system’s overload, by determining the course of action, while reducing direct contact with medical teams. The AI-based tool helps in remote screening to reduce the incoming inquiries at support centers from people who have questions about potential coronavirus symptoms.

The tool delivers personalized guidance based on a thorough self-assessment. It directs appropriate ‘stay at home’ measures. It also enables monitoring the community for hotspots of coronavirus through the use of heat maps, and could even be used in ‘track and trace’ systems. 

Diagnostic Robotics provides a dashboard that facilitates remote monitoring and risk assessment of symptomatic people by highlighting any relevant changes in clinical status.

Research and development of a Vaccine

the COVID-19 pandemic

Utilization of AI has helped the industry in accelerating the process of discovering new drugs and vaccines, including possible treatments for the coronavirus.

The types of vaccines, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, that scientists are interested in are the subunit vaccines and nucleic acid vaccines. Subunit and nucleic acid vaccines both infect the genetic material of the pathogen into human cells to stimulate an immune response.

AI helps in expediting the development of subunit and nucleic acid vaccines. Proteins are a fundamental part of viruses and once scientists understand the structure of the protein, they can develop response-based drugs that work with its unique structure. AI can accelerate this process and helps in identifying compounds that can vector in the unique protein structure. In January, Google DeepMind introduced Alphafold, a system that predicts the 3D structure of a protein-based on its genetic sequence. The system was put to test on COVID-19 in early March 2020. It released protein structure predictions on proteins related to SARS-Cov-2, the virus closely related to COVID-19. In this manner, the research community can understand the virus better and develop a potential vaccine more quickly.

Conclusion

AI is generally considered a useful tool for Healthcare organizations, but the COVID-19 pandemic has shown how essential this can truly be.

Especially now, when social distancing is crucial, AI can help limit unnecessary contact with patients who show little to no symptoms and allows the medical staff to focus on more critical patients.

With further research and development, AI’s augmentation within the healthcare industry can only improve recognized and unthought-of use cases, paving the way for change in the way we think about managing and responding to crises such as the Coronavirus pandemic. 

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