Just like with many other diseases, early detection is critical when it comes to treating patients with the COVID-19 virus. There are also many complications that doctors need to account for when examining X-rays and other medical images from patients and the entire process can be very time-consuming. AI can help take a lot of the load off the shoulders of medical professionals by automating the image analysis process, which allows doctors to devote more time to patients and increases the accuracy of the results.
Medical professionals are always on the lookout for new tools that can detect COVID-19 in chest CT scans, differentiate it from other diseases, and even forecast how the patient’s condition might evolve. A lot of healthcare companies in Europe are well underway in terms of creating such technologies which will go a long way towards helping us contain the pandemic.
What Projects are Going on Right Now?
As far as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned, there are several projects medical professionals are working on. Some of the most interesting ones are the COVID-19 Open Research Dataset and the COVID-Net open-access neural network which involves working on pulmonary tissue pathologies using CT computed tomography in order to create a product that identifies the COVID-19 virus. Alibaba is one of the companies leading the way in China by creating an AI diagnostic tool similar to the one developed by the Israeli startup RADlogics.
AI offers much greater speed in terms of providing a diagnosis since it can analyze patterns, like the CORADS Classification, much faster than any human medical professional. Not only is it much faster, but it also never gets tired, it doesn’t succumb to stress or any other factors that affect a human’s job performance. The advantage humans have over the machines is their creativity and abstract thinking which allows them to identify atypical diseases.
Therefore, the role AI is meant to play in healthcare is simply to augment the capabilities of human doctors. Finding the right balance between humans and machines is one of the biggest challenges a lot of health organizations are currently dealing with.
What are the Challenges That Need to Be Overcome?
Since many diseases have similar patterns and characteristics, it can be difficult for the machines to accurately identify the correct one. Perhaps this is a great place for the synergy of humans and machines we talked about earlier. The AI system can spot pathological patterns, but it would be up to the human doctors to provide the diagnosis. There are additional external factors that need to be accounted for such as anamnesis, which determines whether or not the patient traveled abroad, had contact with any other sick people, and many other factors.
The good news is that we have a lot of training data obtained from various health organizations that we can use to determine the accuracy of such systems, as well as the advantages and disadvantages they offer. Many healthcare professionals believe that AI today can already predict the development of acute respiratory distress syndrome with an accuracy rate as high as 80%. Such algorithms are based on a combination of changes in the lung tissue with clinical trials where high levels of alanine transaminase and myalgia were observed along with increased hemoglobin levels.
Containing the Pandemic Requires an All Hand On Deck Effort
When we look at all of the damage and disruption that was caused by the COVID-19 crisis, it becomes clear that we will need all the support we can get to help deal with the aftermath. We have accumulated a lot of information since December 2019 about the way the virus spreads and the fatality rate, but even more, information is needed to create new, cutting-edge AI technologies. The good news is that nowadays AI projects can be done in real-time i.e. the developing company can assess the effectiveness, analyze any mistakes that were made and tweak the algorithms accordingly -all in a day’s work.
Scientific analysis is a complex and multifaceted process, but many companies in the healthcare industries are under a lot of pressure to come up with new technologies to contain and, ultimately, cure the virus. Supercomputers built by NASA and IBM are already being used to create such solutions. The simple fact that AI is relied upon to help us weather the COVID-19 storm is a testament to its true potential and we are sure to overcome any issues with data collection and technological barriers as time goes on.