how Artificial Intelligence is helping in the fight against Covid

by | 1 Mar, 2021

The application of artificial intelligence within the healthcare industry has been relatively common for decades, with many PhD students applying machine learning techniques to various medical diagnostic tasks, but these have just been studies and typically not utilized for general usage or publicised. Only recently has the use of AI for medical applications been widely reported, with companies like DeepMind and Babylon Health, to name a few, developing medical applications and sharing publicly their advances.

However, let us acknowledge that in times of crisis, we can leverage the powers of advanced data analytics to the benefit of humankind. Using aggregated and anonymised data removes many of the concerns of individual privacy and gives the data science community some useful datasets that we can demonstrate what advanced predictive analytics can help with.

Ultimately, AI can be applied to many parts of any organisation, helping deliver efficiencies from the supply chain, routing of demand across the network of hospitals, diagnosis augmentation, as well as drug discovery, suggestions of medical care. But other departments in the back-office, such as finance, logistics, and HR could also benefit from the use of automation and artificial intelligence, but obviously, this is not a priority right now.

Massive focus in 2020 has completely disrupted the med tech industry and has made the application of AI across so many different areas of healthcare much more accepted. We will continue to see significant focus in this sector for many years as we find more and more ways technology can help with across the medical pathways, delivering personalised and digital healthcare to patients, and ultimately improving the quality of care delivery to the population.

Concerns over Data Privacy

Some of the publicity has been negative with concerns of individual privacy and medical data being used without the individuals’ permission. While these concerns are absolutely valid, using aggregated and anonymised data can be exceptionally valuable for certain applications.

AI for Good Ethos

During times of crisis we must maximise our intelligence to benefit all, which is the fundamental ethos of the AI for Good campaigns that have focused on many different causes and benefits that the application of AI can deliver. Using advanced analytics to create insight and predictive models that can help us be the most efficient we can be with limited resources.

How AI help flight Covid

Some of the initiatives and focus areas for helping the flight against Covid-19 are listed below.

Simulating the Outbreak

We are already seeing the government implement plans to help reduce the peak of cases during a short time interval. Simple simulations[3] can show how this can be achieved by putting people with symptoms into self-isolation. This will help prevent any catastrophic spikes in demand that would be completely unmanageable because it significantly outweighs the available supply of hospital beds.

Capacity Management for Resources

As well as being able to accurately predict the spread of the virus and determine the number of serious cases over time, helping to manage the capacity of the hospitals is an important aspect of ensuring we can match demand and supply of care.

Initial Research to Support the Search for a Vaccine

While several companies are claiming to have discovered a vaccine for COVID-19, it will take many months for them to be tested and approved for use. Until then we need to find ways we can help reduce the number of deaths from the virus. There is already significant work being doing to collate useful data and research papers [1] from a number of various sources which will help in different applications against the virus.

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