COVID-19! Even the word sounds repulsive. This horrendous disease has killed over 100,000 people in the past 6 months and devastated billions in its’ wake. However, for the first time in history, we have tools like artificial intelligence (AI) to help us fight a global pandemic.
AI might prove to be one of the best weapons we have to save us from the corona virus. Below we share how the advancements in artificial intelligence over the past decade have set the stage for an epic battle between COVID-19 and AI. One we are confident AI solutions will help us win.
Before the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) issued public warnings about COVID-19, there was a warning from a small Canadian startup called BlueDot. They reported the issue after their Insights Platformdiscovered a pattern for the infectious disease outbreak.
They are not the only ones who have helped the public fight this disease. For example, Jvion’s COVID Community Vulnerability Map helps local authorities and healthcare institutions evaluate the risks to a community based on demographic and social risk factors. The data is so precise you can get the information down to a few blocks’ radiiof your location.
Private organizations are not the only ones using AI to contribute to solving the COVID-19 disaster. Universities like Harvard Medical School are using natural language processing (NLP) tools to study online posts about coronavirus and their current location to track the spread.
NLP helps researchers sort social media coronavirus discussions on whether they are discussing symptoms or sharing news about the disease. This helps researchers identify hot spots and create potential solutions.
Finally, WHO and China released a report last month that took the mountains of data to feed into an AI software program that checks the spread of the disease through contact tracing.
The combination of private and public resources has helped researchers track the spread of this disease faster than any humans could in such a short time frame.
In addition to analyzing the risk of getting COVID-19, area hospitals have turned to AI to manage patient demand in areas predicted to run out of hospital supplies.
The data can determine the best way for hospitals to help the highest number of patients in a crisis. For example, using the data, AI can predict which patients should go home or which patients may not make it no matter how much care they receive. By knowing this information, doctors can focus on helping the greatest number of patients survive this disease.
While this might seem grim, doctors are facing a hard choice. Any help they can receive in administering the best care to patients could be a lifesaver. Also, it removes the burden of them not treating a patient which could have psychological effects after the pandemic ends.
The first step in saving people is finding out who has the disease. AI has played a key role in getting some of the first tests out to the market.
For example, Chinese tech giant Alibaba has an AI system that detects coronavirus based on chest scans. The tool is right 96% of the time because the technology relies on data taken from over 5,000 coronavirus cases.
Additionally, the test now takes 20 seconds instead of 15 minutes before producing a positive or negative result. Other improvements to the test include whether a patient has coronavirus or pneumonia. Because of the increased accuracy, doctors can scan more patients.
Over the past 8 years, start-ups have received $5.2 billion to fund AI tools in the healthcare industry. Most of these investments focused on drug design and discovery. Healthcare AI companies focused on creatinginformation engines that help drug manufacturers improve their drug discovery and clinical trial processes.
For example, BenevolentAI designed an AI system to find the best drugs for tough viruses like COVID-19. Shortly after the outbreak, Benevolent AI algorithms used predictive capabilities to propose existing drugs that might stop or slow the spread of coronavirus.
Several larger tech giants have investigateddrug development as well. Google’s DeepMind algorithms help it understand different proteins that form the structure of the virus. They published these findings, so scientists around the world can accessextra data to find a cure.
Without this data, it would take scientists months to evaluate the protein structures for the coronavirus.
Given the privacy discussions from the past few years, this technology might be a non-starter in the US. However, some countries like China have already used AI to identify sick individuals and those who have violated the quarantine.
For example, China uses a tool called SenseTime to measure individuals’ temperature to determine if anyone has a fever. Those with a fever are more likely to be infected.
The tool relies on facial recognition technology to track people who should not be traveling because of the infection.
Given the lack of privacy this tool offers, many of these tools would not work in the US. For example, the Health Code system in China assigns citizens different color codes (red, yellow, or green) based on their travel history, location near hotspots, and potential exposure.
Popular apps like WeChat and Alipay tell people whether they must abide by the full quarantine or be out in public.
With close to 2 million reported cases of COVID-19 globally, it is important to know that we use every resource to fight this insidious disease. AI is one resource public health officials cannot discount.
Let us know in the comments below what AI tool you think will have the greatest effect in saving lives fighting the coronavirus.