AI is proving to have newfound use in medical imaging of symptoms in COVID-19 patients across the world. The use of AI in diagnostics has proven bountiful over the last few years, and the COVID-19 pandemic has provided further avenues for the application of AI in healthcare. The basic function of AI is the iterative processing of large datasets, which allows software to detect patterns through the data; by parametrising medical images to obtain datasets, AI can be used for diagnosis and screening n medical imaging.
Clinicians and medical researchers across the world have fast-tracked AI into COVID-19 diagnostics and therapy. Rizwan Malik, lead radiologist at the Royal Bolton Hospital in the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), has used an AI-based chest x-ray system developed by a Mumbai-based company for COVID-19 testing. The tool analyses X-ray images of the chest to detect lung abnormalities such as pneumonia – an infection causing inflammation in the air sacs of the lungs – allowing clinicians in the Royal Bolton to quickly ascertain the severity of the infection in a process known as triaging. Clinical trials of AI imaging technologies like Malik’s have proceeded across the world; radiologists at UC San Diego Health have fast-tracked similar AI to augment lung imaging analysis to detect pneumonia and triage patients to determine which patients to provide more supportive care for.
Shortages in medical equipment, in Malik’s case a shortage of PCR tests (genetic testing kits), endemic in COVID-19 fights across the world have facilitated the adoption of AI technologies in COVID-19 diagnostics and therapy. Doctors in France have similarly adopted AI X-ray triaging as shortages in PCR diagnostics hindered the Government’s efforts to scaleup testing. The AI technology sourced by Malik from Mumbai-based company Qure.ai has spread westward across hospitals in the Middle East, Africa and Europe as the pandemic progressed and generated new medical equipment shortages and fresh need for AI intervention.
Qure.ai has proven applicable across diagnostic and treatment pathways for COVID-19 patients. Tests of Qure.ai’s chest X-ray tool, repurposed for the detection of signs of COVID-19 in March 2020, returned an accuracy of 95% in distinguishing between COVID-19 and non-COVID-19 patients. This is less accurate than the PCR tests typically used as a diagnostic tool for COVID-19, but Qure.ai’s technology has proved quicker and easier for clinicians as the AI can return results in-situ. More rapid diagnosis of COVID-19 patients allows patients to be granted further treatment or additional care, a process in which Qure.ai’s triaging abilities can also help clinicians.
Some concerns persist around the safety of the X-ray imaging process. Additional hospital capacity has been required for patients in the United States after the American College of Radiology recommended that X-rays proceed outside of radiography rooms. Non-COVID-19 patients requiring radiography are often immunosuppressed, meaning they would be particularly vulnerable to catching and having severe COVID-19, and as such COVID-19 patients will have to remain outside of diagnostic facilities that would typically be used for such a radiological procedure. Quick to meet demand, however, Qure.ai’s portable machines allow for easier and less hazardous imaging. As the pandemic worsens in new places, Qure.ai’s technology may prove vital in getting COVID-19 patients the supportive care they need.