The coronavirus pandemic has brought the world to a standstill. Business and trade are on lockdown and thousands of people have lost their lives to this pandemic — as of May 19, 2020, the viral outbreak has claimed more than 349K lives. The number of documented Covid-19 infections stands at almost 5.5 Mn, according to WHO data.
The death toll is orders of magnitude higher than deaths caused by the SARS virus in 2003 (774 in total) and the ‘bird flu’ in 2013 which caused 616 deaths. Against this backdrop, hospitals and medical centres are teeming with overwhelming activity.
The front-line healthcare professionals, supporting staff, and public servants are working relentlessly to curb the pandemic’s trajectory. At the same time, researchers and scientists worldwide are currently engaged in a single-minded pursuit: discovering and developing the Covid-19 vaccine.
So, how can AI help to fight Covid? Let’s take a look.
AI Can Help Fast-track Research And Vaccine Development
The integration of technological advancements into medical practices and research has already yielded significant results in the recent past. For instance, AI-optimised techniques allowed scientists in China to recreate the novel coronavirus’ genome sequence in just one month. In contrast, it took researchers several months to do the same for the SARS virus in 2003.
Independent researchers are also using the power of data analytics to collate relevant data sets to further aid the global R&D drive like the Covid-19 Open Research Dataset Challenge. Such developments are critical to accelerating research focused on developing an effective vaccine, thereby preventing future viral outbreaks.
Optimising Disease Management Using AI-Based Solutions
In a sad turn of events facing those on the front lines, the number of healthcare workers infected with the novel coronavirus also continues to rise every day. After all, they are treating hundreds of patients daily, which significantly exposes them to catching the disease.
Here, AI-driven solutions can replace human contact as much as possible and minimise the burden on healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses, and supporting staff. For instance, AI-driven robots can be used to deliver faster diagnostic checks, mirroring China’s approach, to deal with the outbreak.
Just some time back, we heard about the Delhi-based teenagers who built a very affordable AI-powered robot, called Prithvi, to help dispense food and medicines to the patients hence reducing the healthcare staff’s exposure to the virus. Not only this, but hospitals in Hangzhou city also used AI-assisted ambulances to avoid traffic.
Robots can also be used to keep hospital facilities clean, thereby putting human workers out of harm’s way. Further, advanced solutions such as AI-equipped telepresence systems can be leveraged to help physicians meet and deliver consultations remotely.
Predicting And Preventing Epidemics
Cutting-edge AI-enabled technologies are capable of analysing huge data sets to map and predict behavioural patterns and generate relevant insights.
BlueDot is a global AI database company that leverages a combination of advanced technologies including AI, machine learning, and algorithms to track contagious diseases. On December 19, 2019, BlueDot was the first global organization to warn its users to avoid visiting Wuhan, the origin place and the first hotbed of the Covid-19 virus. The warning was way ahead of the World Health Organization (WHO) which released a notice 10 days later on January 9, 2020.
Likewise, tech giant Facebook has joined with researchers at Harvard University’s School of Public Health and the National Tsing Hua University, in Taiwan. The association is using social media data to predict the viral trajectory. Belgium, Italy, Austria, and the UK are also using anonymised phone data to track the movement of people in full compliance with their data privacy rights.
In this way, leading organizations can harness AI’s abilities to track and, ultimately, prevent the spread of both the incumbent as well as potential outbreaks in the future. The increasing adoption of cutting-edge solutions to effectively deal with the ongoing pandemic is proof that technology is here to stay.