Coronavirus tests the value of artificial intelligence in medicine

Albert Hsiao, M.D., Ph.D., and his colleagues at the University of California San Diego (UCSD) health system had been working for 18 months on an artificial intelligence program designed to help doctors identify pneumonia on a chest X-ray.

When the coronavirus hit the U.S., they decided to see what it could do.

The researchers quickly deployed the application, which dots X-ray images with spots of color where there may be lung damage or other signs of pneumonia. It has now been applied to more than 6,000 chest X-rays, and it’s providing some value in diagnosis, said Hsiao, director of UCSD’s augmented imaging and artificial intelligence data analytics laboratory.

His team is one of several around the country that has pushed AI programs developed in a calmer time into the COVID-19 crisis to perform tasks like deciding which patients face the greatest risk of complications and which can be safely channeled into lower-intensity care.


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