These days, going online means reading more scary news about COVID-19 that’s wreaking havoc in various parts of the globe. The scale of the threat is pushing the healthcare industry to speed up its search for a cure to defeat the virus and stop it from spreading further. Tech experts are thus looking to see if AI can help. This post looks at possible ways of utilizing AI in the fight against the coronavirus.
Can AI Help Contain a Global Outbreak?
We’ve seen research point to the benefits that AI use can provide in the healthcare industry. The question is: Can it help combat COVID-19? Let’s take a look at some possibilities.
1. Disease Mapping
In 2003, when the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus spread across 26 countries and infected more than 8,000 individuals, healthcare experts turned to AI to develop HealthMap. As an AI-powered technology, Healthmap scraped data from various sources to identify SARS-affected countries and where the virus is likely to spread next. At present, HealthMap has been helping the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) in data gathering. HealthMap is, in fact, behind the COVID-19 data visualization.
The information that HealthMap and similar AI-powered health monitoring technologies can help experts predict where help is most needed and could spread next, allowing them to make the necessary preparations.
2. Remote Monitoring and Treatment
One of the notable characteristics of the coronavirus is its mode of transmission. Human-to-human interactions play a huge role in spreading the disease. That said, remote patient monitoring and treatment can be highly useful. Thankfully, these are possible using AI-powered robots and drones. Robots can help disinfect areas used to treat affected patients, monitor isolated and quarantined individuals, and even deliver medications.
In the U.S., an AI-powered robot helped doctors treat a patient. The doctors, through the robot, communicated with the patient without exposing themselves to danger. In China, self-driving robots are delivering relief goods to affected places. Similarly, drones patrol locked-down areas to make sure that people follow quarantine regulations. The same drones are also disinfecting affected areas.
3. Disease Detection and Prevention
Alibaba developed a new AI system that can detect coronavirus infection in patients with a 96% accuracy level. It does so by analyzing the results of patients’ CT scans. This technology can speed up diagnoses and even help reduce the chances that health workers will contract the disease.
4. Drug Discovery
Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, drug companies have begun using AI to discover medications for particular diseases. AI systems scan through approved drug databases to see which ones could work against a specific ailment by matching each symptom with a particular chemical treatment.
5. Drug Simulation
As researchers work round the clock to develop an effective vaccine for the coronavirus, AI can help by predicting the possible outcomes of clinical trials. Novadiscovery uses Jinko, an AI-powered technology that collects data from past studies to identify the disease pathology. It also consolidates drug data and efficacy on patients. Simulations can also speed up the process because doctors don’t need to wait for days or weeks to see test results, unlike if they were to try drugs on volunteers.
Despite the many advancements in AI, the technology is not a silver bullet. AI systems largely depend on the data they gather and analyze. And that’s where the bulk of the problem may lie. COVID-19 is a new disease. There may not be sufficient data to study and analyze yet.
For now, while the technology can help speed up processes on the part of healthcare practitioners and maybe reduce workers’ chances of contracting the disease themselves, it’s best for all of us to adhere to safety precautions.