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How Artificial Intelligence (AI) Has Emerged as a Potent Healing Technology During the Covid Crisis

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While Artificial intelligence's (AI) paradigm-altering power was not quite evident in the pre-covid time, this assistive technology has made its mark during the ongoing Covid crises.

Not just for contact tracing, the technology has been widely used to develop and test vaccines and, more importantly, improve patients' response and recovery rate.

Wondering what this lifeless yet life-saving technology feeds on to tackle this deadly virus?

how-ai-emerged-powerful-healing-technology-covid-crises

The answer: Machine learning(ML) algorithms and big data. Yes, AI-powered applications driven by ML algorithms are fed with large volumes of user data, enabling the AI to find and recognize valuable insights to arrive at and fight the deadly virus with conclusive insights.

Long story short, AI’s role has leapfrogged from just being an assistive patient care technology to being an all-rounder when dealing with Covid crises.

As AI’s influence, popularity, and effectiveness spiral, it won’t be surprising if the technology is leveraged to manage the ongoing crises and future pandemics.

Let’s see how AI aided health practitioners and the public, in general, to deal with this infectious virus.

  • AI’s Role in Managing Day-to-Day Chaos with Minimal Contact during the Outbreak

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During this pandemic, with social distancing and quarantine measures in place in several countries, the AI-enabled tools helped all the organizations, whether private or public, big or small, to meet the needs of the customers and employees. These AI devices supported remote communication, ensured food security, and enabled telemedicine facilities.

Machine learning-enabled chatbots were used for contactless screening of COVID-19 symptoms and answering all general questions from healthcare and government institutions. For example, a French start-up(Clevy.io) has launched a chatbot to keep people updated on official government communications about COVID-19. This chatbot is powered by real-time information from the French government and WHO (World Health Organization).

  • AI’s Role in Control and Spread of the Virus

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Currently, researchers and practitioners can easily forecast the spread of COVID-19 with the help of AI-powered machine learning technology. The technology has been helping researchers analyze large volumes of data to identify vulnerable populations. For example, in California, researchers analyzed 12 regions to estimate an approximate number of COVID-19 infections.

In fact, a Canadian artificial intelligence company predicted the emergence of this novel virus way before the World Health Organization did. The start-up called BlueDot is known for using AI technologies to detect infectious disease outbreaks. And in the case of Corona, the company alerted the world almost nine days before the World Health Organization official statement about the emergence of a novel coronavirus.

Further, scenario-planning AI-enabled tools were made available to the governors in the USA to understand the volume of exposure, infection, and hospitalization requirements of the masses based on which response plans were devised and implemented.

And if these were not enough. In Berlin, WHO is setting up a global early warning center for pandemics using AI's power and speed to analyze health data.

Needless to say, COVID-19 has in a big way helped us humans realize the need and speed of AI technology in tackling such uncommon health crises spread across the world in unquestionable proportions.

  • AI’s Role in Situational Responsiveness and Infection Prevention

With the virus spreading globally, it has become more critical than ever to identify the transmission mode, transmission dynamics, and pathogenic and clinical features of the virus to identify the gaps in the existing infection prevention and control (IPC) guidelines.

Disease Modeling- AI understands how COVID-19 spreads

AI models designed by some of the best healthcare AI companies will help dissect the structure of virus proteins and thereby model the spread of infection. Plus, it determines the mechanisms the virus uses to infect humans and the different ways it could be inhibited.

AI for Real-time Disease Surveillance:

As AI progresses, public health officials will get customized alerts and real-time situational awareness of emerging threats from AI-driven platforms. Plus, this new search website (CORD-19 Search) powered by machine learning helps researchers with papers and documents. The research work will enable the radiologists to indicate the probability of disease and diagnose it in advance. Further, the machine learning algorithm will be predicting pneumonia probability by overlaying x-rays with color-coded maps.

AI Monitors and Checks Zoonotic Spillovers(transmission of the pathogen from a vertebrate animal to a human)

AI-enabled predictive tools can contribute to research and critical early warning systems by monitoring zoonotic spillovers, identifying at-risk environmental areas, and informing where and what data to collect. AI capabilities are being used to sieve through molecular, ecological, and climate data to help identify the vulnerabilities for zoonotic spillovers. The zoonotic warning systems can combine with the outbreak detection platforms for more precise disease detection.

Advanced Sensing Detects Pathogens:

The AI can identify novel sensing materials within certain sensor technologies and trace exhaled droplets dispersed through the air and deposited on surfaces.

  • AI’s Role in the Diagnostic Process

how-ai-emerged-powerful-healing-technology-covid-crises

In diagnostics, AI-enabled tools are used to assist and inform expert assessments. Mainly AI-based tools aid diagnosis based on clinical symptoms and routine laboratory tests. A few hospitals employ AI tools to analyze chest scans to detect COVID-19 and assess disease severity and care needs.

As we advance, more data and clinical training can enhance diagnostic algorithms, reliably supporting radiologists and emergency care teams to identify disease indicators, enabling better patient care in the process.

  • AI’s Role in the Development of Vaccines and Medical Equipment

how-ai-emerged-powerful-healing-technology-covid-crises

There’s no getting around the fact that AI has quickly discovered and designed vaccines and therapeutics. Not surprisingly, researchers are pushing hard to explore several possibilities to accelerate the discovery process. For one, they are trying to understand how the virus might interact with different therapeutics and vaccines. Also how AI-driven simulations could be employed to test the idea of repurposing the existing treatment drugs.

Further, AI is being used to manage supply chains as well. In fact, AI is being used to create self-correcting and intelligent supply chains in the private sector. AI can predict disruptions and vulnerabilities, observe and prioritize inventory, and recommend corrective actions.

What’s more, AI is driving advanced manufacturing. For medical equipment like ventilator components, face shields, and personal protective equipment, AI has enabled the manufacturing industry to accelerate production.

What’s Next? AI-enabled Innovative Response for Future Pandemic Preparedness

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Not just the ongoing pandemic, AI’s these days are being prepared to deal with future pandemics as well through the setting up of data structures.

The Setting Up of Data Structures

AI and data go hand in hand. However, one needs to feed ideal data to AI so as to generate authentic results. Realizing how data could make or mar AI’s credibility, nations across the globe are planning to form data infrastructures to strengthen AI-driven pandemic responses. The infrastructure will be able to store, transfer, and collect data for future use. The data gathered should be such that healthcare organizations should be able to find critical questions that are bothering people based on which datasets could be created for pandemic preparedness.

Electronic Data Sharing to Enhance Surveillance Systems

Again in the U.S. electronic data sharing is on cards to enhance national syndromic surveillance systems for COVID-19 and future infectious disease outbreaks. The AI-enabled data management and analysis tools will combine disparate data sets and offer innovative analysis and thereby help boost the country’s national syndromic surveillance capabilities.

It turns out, global cooperation on smart disease surveillance and international data norms help provide rapid response and protection from pandemic diseases. The requirement is to equip our emergency management and public health systems with tools connected with AI for effective pandemic response.

Modernization of State and Local Health Infrastructure

There should be an investment in digital modernization of state and local health infrastructure for effective disease surveillance. With this provision, healthcare professionals can collect and use data for disease surveillance in real-time, which will be helpful in pandemic management.

Federal Funding for AI Research and Development

Federal funding should be increased for AI research and development that can accelerate the advancement of AI technology. An NSF-led AI institute (National Sanitation Foundation) for health and biomedicine should be planned.

Covid-19 Consortium to Generate Covid-19 Related Resources

As we are aware, the COVID-19 High-Performance Computing Consortium was launched by the White House OSTP (Office of Science and Technology Policy) to bring together the federal agencies, laboratories, and academia to offer computing resources for COVID-19 research. So, such consortiums should be made permanent to create a standing capability to apply AI to pandemic-related research.

Organizations across the world have been profusely applying Machine learning technologies to address COVID-19. If all of us unanimously work together to explore innovative ways of utilizing machine learning technology to fight against COVID-19, we can surely overcome this epidemic at the global level.

© 2021 Rachael Ray

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