How could AI be beneficial for radiology during COVID-19?

The COVID-19 pandemic continues, confronting health care professionals around the world with unprecedented clinical and operational challenges. Along with struggling to deal with this extraordinary situation, they also need to ensure care for other patients at the same time.

The COVID-19 pandemic will significantly change health care systems in general and radiology departments in particular. It will serve as a catalyst for the development of more effective, efficient and digitized medicine. The aspiration to drive innovation forward with such improvements as AI-based solutions is more valid today than ever before. Siemens Healthineers is stepping up as a partner to support health care systems, helping them deliver high-value care to patients and families.

Chest X-rays and CT imaging are currently playing an important role in diagnosing COVID-19. Non-contrast chest CT scans have been useful not only in detecting, quantifying the severity of, and assessing the progression of the disease, but also in evaluating the potential response to therapy alternatives. Similar results can be achieved with chest X-rays, e.g., tracking the disease’s progression and conducting follow-ups.

How could AI be beneficial for radiology in the context of COVID-19?

There is mainly an urgent need to increase global knowledge about the new coronavirus. You can imagine that, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the demand for radiologic services has increased. AI-powered analysis of chest scans has the potential to reduce this growing burden on radiologists, who must review and prioritize a rising number of patient chest scans.

  • Human efficiency and accuracy are compromised as a result of the overwhelming workload. The automation of AI can offer support.
  • AI can be a powerful aid in recognizing the lesions in CT images and even quantitatively characterizing the findings and comparing changes between exams, which is crucial for precision medicine.
  • AI may support clinicians in answering several questions, including those regarding patient triaging, diagnosis (in combination with RT-PCR tests and epidemiological risk), the assessment of severity and progression, and the response to therapy in patients exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms.

Siemens Healthineers’ expert teams and their collaboration partners are also working together on the development of dedicated algorithms that help face the challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One such example is the algorithm CT pneumonia analysis, which is designed to automatically identify and quantify abnormal patterns in the lungs, enabling simple-to-use analysis of non-contrast chest CT scans for research purposes. The system identifies lungs, lobes and abnormalities associated with pneumonia. It also computes high-opacity abnormalities, as they are shown to correlate with severe symptoms. The results could be used to analyze the severity and progression of abnormalities in patients exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms. The AI-Rad Companion Research CT Pneumonia Analysis prototype is offering a cloud-based option that runs on the team play digital health platform.

In summary, AI-based solutions have the potential to help radiologists handle the growing amount of chest X-ray and CT imaging analysis in their daily routine and bring the best possible care to their patients – even in the challenging times of this ongoing pandemic.

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