How COVID-19 is accelerating the artificial intelligence revolution in healthcare
The COVID-19 pandemic is the defining global crisis of our time. It is not only an immediate health challenge, but one with no end in sight. Only time will reveal the effects the pandemic has on our society – both economically and psychologically. What’s more, the lack of solutions such as data-driven decision-making and predictive technology has prolonged and worsened the toll of the pandemic. Adopting such technologies will be what allows us to rebuild society and healthcare. In this Pacific Prime article, we take a look at how COVID-19 is accelerating the artificial intelligence (AI) revolution in healthcare.
COVID-19 and artificial intelligence
On December 31, 2019, an AI-company called BlueDot alerted clients, including businesses, hospitals, and governments, to a cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China. Based in Toronto, Canada, the platform locates, tracks, and predicts through machine learning and natural language processing that an infectious disease will spread. BlueDot detected what would later be known as COVID-19 nine days before the World Health Organization (WHO) released its official statement notifying people about the rise of the novel coronavirus.
Using artificial intelligence to combat COVID-19
As the pandemic has spread across the globe, new applications of AI have popped up in various locations. For instance, location-based messaging in South Korea has been a vital tool for reducing the spread of the disease. Nine out of ten South Koreans have been receiving emergency messages based on their location that inform them if they are in close proximity to a confirmed case. In China, Alibaba’s AI-algorithm can offer a diagnosis in 20 seconds with 96 percent accuracy. Moreover, autonomous vehicles were used in situations that would have been too risky for humans, such as for food and medicine delivery.
AI’s potential and power has already been demonstrated in the COVID-19 response. Both the speed and scale of researchers’ efforts to develop a vaccine were extraordinary, and that was in large part a result of research and development powered by AI. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to AI’s potential in healthcare. Not only is AI going to be able to predict, prevent, and treat COVID-19 cases, but it could even prevent another pandemic from happening.
AI and machine learning are already being used in response to the COVID-19 pandemic through bot-based technology. For example, any individual who believes that they have coronavirus symptoms can self-triage the symptoms to help ensure testing and hospital resources are appropriately managed. Additionally, AI is involved in enrolling candidates for blood plasma donations and routing the collected plasma to the right destination. The blood plasma from individuals who have recovered from the novel coronavirus contains antibodies, which can be used for COVID-19 therapy.
But perhaps one of the most advanced ways in which AI is currently being used is for molecular simulations, which involves creating a simulation environment that could be used to uncover therapeutic compounds and even potential vaccines.
AI’s diagnostic capabilities
AI and biometric sensing are already revealing powerful diagnostic capabilities. While it’s too soon to tell if it will have an impact on the current pandemic, it is possible that biometric devices, such as a smartwatch or a fitness band, will be used to measure a person’s body temperature, pulse rate, movement, and other data. These devices would then put the data into diagnostic models that could tell a person if they’re sick, or starting to get sick, long before they would notice themselves.
This would make it possible to offer healthcare in a way that currently isn’t possible. If people could be treated when they are not yet seriously ill, their chances of recovery would improve significantly. Intervening before a person is symptomatic or more gravely ill would be cheaper as well. It could also be something that helps make the next pandemic more manageable, or perhaps prevent it altogether.
To learn more about AI as a trend in the healthcare and insurance industry, as well as other trends in 2021, check out this video.
For a deeper dive, download our free Cost of Health Insurance Report.
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