Considering it is 2020, and AI technology is moving at a rapid rate within all sectors of business and general life, it is no surprise that AI is now being used to help fight the current COVID-19 pandemic.
AI has a place in almost all industries, whether it be architecture, building, learning, security, and even gambling. Yes, AI is even used in the world of online gambling to stop cheating and ensure a free and fair environment to play.
One of the biggest issues that has arisen from the current pandemic is the fact that hospitals are short on staff, and short on time. The influx of patients needing immediate attention and care has overwhelmed hospitals and the doctors and nurses just can’t keep up.
In the early days of the pandemic, a radiologist at the Royal Bolton Hospital in the UK was looking into using AI to scan x-rays so that the long process of reading and diagnosing using x-rays could be shortened.
Before he could take further steps, COVID struck. One of the first things that doctors discovered about the virus was the fact that early radiology images showed distinct abnormalities in the lungs of COVID patients, that were signs of viral pneumonia.
The doctor conducting the AI research immediately saw an opportunity to use AI within the treatment process of the virus. Being able to detect these abnormalities drastically sped up nurses and doctors ability to triage patients.
Whereas before, the AI technology would do a second reading of x-rays to simply “double-check”, it was quickly implemented to be the first reading, obviously speeding up the treatment process and freeing up doctors.
Multiple companies who develop AI technology were instrumental in saving the French healthcare system, as well as many lives, at the height of the outbreak in the country, as well as the weeks that have followed.
When the virus began to spread rapidly, the hospitals were quickly overwhelmed and the number of deaths were getting out of hand. Two companies, Vizyon and Lunit, developed technology that scanned patients for COVID to see the probability of infection, and sent the results back in ten minutes, allowing doctors to begin treatment or isolate the patient immediately.
As you can see, it isn’t necessarily what task the AI is performing, it is the speed at which it is doing it. Speed is what saves lives with regards to a virus that can spread, infect, and kill patients so quickly.
One of the biggest prospects with regards to AI in medicine is its current work within the field of drugs and vaccines. AI already has a proven track record when it comes to finding the correct drug or treatment plan that fits certain viruses and diseases.
AI machine learning has already been used to scan an individual patient's needs, trawl through the plethora of information available to it, to come up with a treatment plan to help that particular individual.
Now though, AI is being used once again to go through the multiple different drugs and all their varieties, as well as all diseases and viruses, trying to find patterns between treatments and the viruses, to see which combinations were the most effective.
Why this technology is so exciting is that nobody quite knows when a vaccine for COVID-19 will be available. Vaccines can take years to fully develop, and then they still need to go through more trials and testing.
This drug AI is being used to see if any of the thousands of drugs on the market already can be adapted and repurposed to treat this outbreak. Obviously, it can analyse all aspects of the drugs make-up, and then see how effective it will be in fighting the virus.
Across the globe, this technology is already proving to be effective, as one company, BenevolentAI, has discovered that a drug used for rheumatoid arthritis is showing the capability of preventing the virus from infecting lung cells.
These types of discoveries are happening regularly, with many experts believing a cure can be found soon as this time of cross-checking and “deep dive” into each individual drug would usually take many months, if not years.
Currently, AI companies everywhere are developing or using technology to help with every stage of infection and treatment, and don’t think that this is only going to be used with the current pandemic either.
This technology is developing fast, and is well on its way to being able to detect the earliest signs of cancer, or other life threatening diseases, as well as quickly scanning and processing the correct treatment plan to match an individuals needs.
As you can tell, the potential of AI to develop life saving treatment, as well as diagnose potentially deadly diseases and viruses at the earliest possible time, is, and will save many lives.
The technology is moving quicker every day, and pandemic such as the current one is not only fuling the development, but also giving scientists and AI companies the chance to improve and modify their technology, discovering new possibilities in the process.
No matter how you look at it, AI is making huge advancements in the field of medicine, and we are quickly reaching the point where fast and accurate diagnoses, followed by individualized and effective treatment programs, will be the norm.