It is hard to escape the constant presence of COVID-19. When you open your social media accounts, you’re bound to come across COVID-19 content. News and the lack of live sports on Spectrum TV options act as a constant reminder as well. But did you know that AI and ML are helping support the fight against COVID-19? There have been many use cases of AI and ML during the pandemic. Many of these relate directly to healthcare, pharmacology, and even public policy decisions. Read on to find out more.
How AI and ML Are Helping to Tackle COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic is not like anything seen in the 21st Century. It has infected millions across the world. It has also caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands. In an effort to fight against the virus, governments and healthcare providers need all the help they can get. It now appears that AI applications based on machine learning and big data may be helping considerably. Here are 3 areas in which the technology is helping the fight against COVID-19:
- Medicine and Pharmaceutical Research
- Healthcare Services and Management
- Public Policy Decision Making
Let’s take a closer look at how AI and ML are supporting efforts in these three areas.
Medicine and Pharmaceutical Research
The COVID-19 crisis has caught the whole world unprepared. Since the virus is entirely new, as of yet there is no known vaccine. The only treatment that has worked so far is improving one’s personal hygiene. Pharmaceutical researchers are now looking to AI to help them answer various questions about the virus.
For example, Google’s DeepMind AI is working on predicting the COVID-19 protein structure. If this works, it will answer a number of important questions. Including how the virus spreads and how we may be able to control it. Many are hopeful that the use of AI and ML in medical research will bear fruit. It may even help with the discovery of potential vaccines.
Healthcare Services and Management
COVID-19 has shown us just how unprepared global health systems were. Especially for a health crisis on a global scale. Healthcare providers and support staff are at the frontlines of the fight against COVID-19. One of the biggest problems they face is a shortage of viral testing kits. However, many healthcare providers are turning to AI and ML to counter this problem. Most hospitals have X-Ray and CT-scan equipment available. More so than viral testing kits in any case. Researchers are looking to leverage this for efforts against COVID-19.
To the human eye, the scans of a person suffering from influenza and a person suffering from COVID-19 are the same. There are no major differences. However, it may be possible to use computer vision to detect COVID-19 from a scan. AI can be trained on large data sets to find certain patterns. This may help healthcare providers to diagnose and treat the disease early on.
Public Policy Decision Making
Governments have had a really tough job trying to contain the spread of COVID-19. The virus is highly contagious. On top of that, it takes a few days for the symptoms to start appearing. But even asymptomatic carriers can transmit the disease. This has led to widespread panic. Conversely, some people refuse to follow safety guidelines on masks and social distancing. All of this makes the government’s job more difficult.
Governments are partnering with telecom providers and AI companies to help combat the virus. One of the ways they are doing this is by tracking the contact history of infected patients. Using data gathered from telecom providers, AI can learn about human movement in an area. It can then use ML to find patterns in movement, and us it to trace movements of recently diagnosed patients. That way governments can reach out to people who may have been exposed to the virus. This can help flatten the curve as people can isolate themselves in advance. It also relieves some of the pressure on hospitals and healthcare providers.
COVID-19 has been a massive disruption on a global scale. Even with large-scale lockdowns and preventive measures, many countries are still seeing a rise in new cases. However, building on existing technology, data science, and AI may be able to help us win. AI can extrapolate from existing data from researchers, internet providers, and hospitals. Once trained on the data, it can help support medicine, governments, and healthcare providers with smart decisions. Let’s hope it is enough.