Artificial Intelligence and COVID-19

The term Artificial Intelligence refers to programming and simulation of machines to operate and think like humans. Machines built to inherit and mimic human intelligence are characterized to exhibit rational thinking, ability to learn and adapt, reasoning and problem-solving. AI has led the world to a new phase having a machine to make essential and highly accurate decisions, planning and strategy development for the future. Roots of modern Artificial Intelligence can be traced back in the late 1940s, where a British Mathematician, Alan Turing asked himself a question “Can machines think?”, and described the problem in the form of a game: “The Imitation Game”. Starting from there AI has now spread its branches in almost every daily life problem. AI and machine learning are now being used in the fields of Health-care, Manufacturing Industries, finance, Entertainment, Education, Agriculture etc.

The increasing use of AI in everyday life and especially healthcare has motivated researchers to study its applications in fighting with the ongoing pandemic viz. Severely Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronaviruses-2 (SARS-CoV-2), also known as COVID-19. A brief discussion of various intelligent techniques and methods that have proven beneficial for medical practitioners and nursing staff has been highlighted in this article.

Applications of AI

Recent studies have shown that Artificial Intelligence can play a vital role in the healthcare Industry by supplementing overburdened health professionals. AI has become a transformational force in healthcare, helping the medical practitioners to perform analysis, interpretation, and comprehension of complex medical and healthcare data. It is being used to deploy more precise, efficient, and impactful interventions at precisely the right moment in a patient’s care. It has encouraged the development of the Next Generation of Medical devices and machines, giving accurate and detailed predictions. AI-assisted medical machines are used in a patient’s care to reduce diagnostic and therapeutic errors, the enhanced decision-making process for healthcare professionals and predict the outcome of disease along with treatment insights. Recently many studies have been done on using AI to fight COVID-19. They included early detection of symptoms, rapid diagnosis of patients, regular and remote surveillance of home quarantined patients, measure and analyze the severity of infection, drug discovery and repurposing, research and development of vaccines, genome sequencing of SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Application of AI in Healthcare

The Standard detection method of COVID-19 is usually costly and time-consuming, has a low positive rate. It also requires specific equipment and testing kits and also involves a highly skilled medical doctor/consultant. Due to exponential increase in COVID positive cases across the world, most countries are suffering from a lack of testing kits, hospital equipment and have a smaller number of medical professionals. Multiple studies have been done till now on using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning methods for the prediction of COVID-19 positive patients using heterogeneous Electronic Health Record data. AI systems are widely using a daily monitoring report, Radiographic images, physiological parameters to determine the health condition of patients. Using AI and medical diagnostic data of patients can help in rapid detection of COVID-19 and analysis of the severity of infection in patients, without the involvement of any medical expert. It will reduce the burden on the Healthcare system while simultaneously limiting the interaction of healthcare professionals with patients since they too have the highest risk of being infected with the virus.

The manual reading of radiographic images such as CT Scans and X-rays involve a highly skilled medical doctor/consultant and a certain amount of time. But, the use of AI and Machine Learning can analyze a person’s Chest X-ray for COVID infection in just a few seconds without the help of any medical practitioner, proving an opportunity for the remote way of operation. The AI-based system can estimate the risk of disease and pulmonary involvement of COVID-19.

Smart wearable devices and the use of mobile apps can be used to keep the regular track of patients quarantined at home and remotely monitor their health. These smart wearable devices can measure various physiological parameters of a patient’s body such as Heart Rate (HR), Heart Rate Variability (HRV), Cardiovascular Strain, Sleep patterns, Respiratory Monitoring, SpO2 level and body temperature. It will enable the medical staff to continuously check the physiological parameters and determine the condition of patients without coming in any direct contact. These devices will also notify the users of any possibility of infection before any medical symptoms start to appear. These AI-based diagnostic methods will also help the authority to allocate resources judiciously and efficiently, resulting in the proper management of thousands of patients.

AI is being utilized as a powerful tool to understand better the views and sentiments of the population in the ongoing pandemic. Millions of posts and articles from various social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. are gathered and analyzed using AI to track the public behaviour, opinions, and reaction of the population towards lockdown and other quarantine policies. It can help the government to plan and execute other preventive measures and guidelines to help the public deal with the pandemic. The results show that a quick classification of rumours and misinformation on networking sites with factual information can significantly reduce impractical behaviour and thinking among the population.

Scientists and medical practitioners are using AI to work on models for drug discovery and repurposing, development of vaccines and antiviral components, studying about genome structure and sequencing of the virus, Immune system and mechanism of virus and spread of the virus.

Thus, we believe that the extensive use of Artificial intelligence can revolutionize, subsidize, and extend the reach of our ageing healthcare system. Artificial Intelligence can prove to be humanity’s greatest asset in its fight against COVID-19.

For more stories and information about AI and Machine Learning based ongoing research areas and recent developments in AI, you can follow me on Medium.

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