How Can Hospitals Use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Respond to COVID-19

Matthew Icenroad

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Dec 22, 2020

Since the virus began to disrupt global operations, hospitals and governments have embraced AI as a powerful tool to address limited emergency room capacities and shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and Intensive Care (or Critical Care) beds. AI is a term for technologies or machines that have the capability to adapt and learn. The technology research company Gartner assumes that 75% of healthcare organizations will have invested in their AI potential by 2021 to improve their overall performance.

AI has a place in bettering hospital functions and saving lives and is on the forefront of forward-facing healthcare and security. What kind of AI capabilities are out there for hospitals and how can they begin to integrate this technology seamlessly?

AI and Healthcare Go Hand in Hand

During the COVID-19 crisis, we have been helping our clients in the healthcare community with everything from developing emergency action plans for pandemics, establishing alternate care sites (ACS) and providing Incident Management Team support.

We see AI in the healthcare space as a tool to achieve our client’s goals of protecting staff, patients and the public. For example, AI technology that detects if someone is running a fever can prevent the disease from spreading and ensure that a person receives immediate care.

Hospitals can use AI systems at their entrances to intercept people who may have COVID-19 symptoms and prevent them from visiting patients. Specially positioned cameras conduct facial thermal scans to identify discoloration, sweat and other symptoms.

In China, a no-contact infrared sensor system singles out individuals in crowded railway stations who have a fever, so that they can be prevented from possibly spreading contagious diseases. The Government of South Korea have developed an AI-based healthcare service that helps users self-report symptoms and notify others if they were leaving designated quarantine areas.

Facilities Use AI to Protect Capacity Limitations

AI is also being used to understand and respond to hospital bed capacity. During the pandemic, the ability to accurately assess and respond to ICU bed capacity is critical. Quality care depends on having adequate bed space and the ability to move patients through quickly or notify government agencies. The first step is to conduct an on-site assessment of your facility, identifying surge capacity capabilities and developing an online surge plan strategy which can then be monitored in real time. These plans have been utilized in the State of Connecticut, the District of Columbia and Washington State to provide a coordinated COVID-19 response across the continuum care in each state. Our ProtectAdvisr software provides real-time data reporting for emergency incidents and can relay information at a macro (facility) or micro (unit/department) level. This information is utilized in real time for Incident Management teams to support their planning assumptions, make informed decisions and rapidly assist organizations in their recovery process. From there, some healthcare systems are developing AI-based triage tools that quickly differentiates between likely COVID-19 patients and those suffering from other ailments.

Safeguarding Precious Resources with AI Technology

Hospitals are exploring deploying robots to perform critical services, like obtaining vital signs and delivering medication, that would otherwise require human contact with a nurse, nurses' aid or physician. Other hospitals use AI to maximize lifesaving resources, such as ICUs, ventilators and beds.

China has developed a smart field hospital staffed largely by intelligent robots alleviating healthcare personnel exposure to the virus and relieving the burden on exhausted doctors and nurses. By using AI technology to perform services, staff can reserve scarce PPE to conduct checks and attend to more critical patients.

Hospital AI Will Have a Lasting Impact on Healthcare and Security

COVID-19 has unquestionably fast-tracked these AI applications and much will be learned through its utilization during this crisis. In the months to come, AI-driven technologies will be a dominant topic at future trade shows and industry meetings about healthcare and security best practices. A number of these AI applications will have value and relevance to organizations beyond the healthcare environment in protecting their employees, customers, property and processes in our post-COVID-19 world.