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Can AI prevent or slow down future pandemics?

The importance of Artificial Intelligence in today’s world is very prominent. Every day we get in contact with some form of AI, either using it for our benefit or providing data for someone else’s benefit. AI is supported by machine learning, making it more efficient and accurate with time. In the future, AI will become more powerful and reliable leading to a better Artificial Intelligent ecosystem. 

COVID-19 turned out to be a catastrophe for the world; with it’s rapid spread, infecting millions around the globe. The multiple transmissions through various type of carriers resulted in mutations of the SARS-CoV-2, making it difficult to examine and tackle the rapidly changing virus. Whereas artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies made vaccine discovery faster and efficient. AI played a vital role in the genome study and making COVID-19 therapeutics. 

The healthcare industry is evolving with innovations that include artificial intelligence based data-driven results, robot-assisted surgeries, real-time monitoring of health, round the clock consultation using virtual nurses, etc. Combined with big data, the computational algorithms are even able to identify diseases before they can become severe. The risk factor is reduced, early treatments can save lives and the data collected is helpful in the research field. AI has, in effect, made the identification of diseases more effective and easier. 

How AI was instrumental during the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Minimizing human contact:

AI is shaping a new future with its contactless applications in industries, households and every other aspect of human lives. Inclusion of some services during the pandemic ensured safety to some extent; like automated robot-based delivery of items in hospitals, reducing human contact with the infected patients. AI-based disinfecting and sanitizing solutions, food & medicine delivery using drones, high fever detection tools assisting in diagnosis, etc.  

Faster image scan analysis: 

Analyzing datasets and genome sequence is a time-consuming and tedious process. AI performing the same task will increase the speed, accuracy and efficiency of the process. Advanced imaging algorithms enhance radiomics analysis, reducing the efforts made by humans. The results produced will help diagnosis and treatment ensuring the safety of the infected person. Introducing machine learning and artificial intelligence results in better antigen predictions made vaccine discovery even more efficient and quick. Deep learning neural network like COVnet, diagnosed and identified COVID-19 symptoms and separated the results from getting confused with the common flu. Areas where the availability of the resources are limited will benefit from AI-based applications as the number of RT-PCR test can be reduced. 

Infection/contact tracing apps: 

AI-enabled apps for phones are the new way to track infection within in a region. Apps with features like self-diagnosis, health assessment and information of infected people in a region, help everyone stay cautious and take preventive measures accordingly. Apps like AI4COVID-19 can identify the disease with the sound of coughs, which can then be used for better telemedicine practices. Other platforms like Arogya Setu, trace the infected person’s data and inform the people around about the infection.  

Vaccination drive: 

Ensuring fair vaccination is a key factor in controlling the havoc created by the pandemic. In certain situations, it is noticed that people avoid getting the vaccine, try multiple doses and several other unfair practices have also be noted. Collecting the data of the population, keeping track of every individual’s vaccination and timely distribution, if done manually can become a tedious task. The inclusion of platforms with artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities can reduce manual work and save time. This will help in reducing the workforce required, ensuring the safety of the staff, and enable the increase in speed resulting in a larger section of population getting vaccinated in less time and cutting costs. Redundancy can be reduced and fair vaccine drives can be held. People who are not vaccinated can be identified and informed using the data analytics.

How AI can prevent pandemics in future? 

Drug/vaccine discovery: 

The speed of discovery of vaccine increased exponentially when AI is introduced. Reverse vaccinology methods were used in order to identify the best vaccine candidates. Many deep learning and machine learning algorithms were used to enhance the efficacy of the traditional methods. Mathematical models and historic data are easier to put together and examine with the help of artificial intelligence tools. Cost-effective and faster solutions will eventually make the pandemic situation better.   

Breakout prevention warnings: 

Utilizing technology to gather data from sources like news, social media, and calls and, transforming the data into information about the region, identifying where the infection is spreading or about to spread. Warnings and alerts can be issued for the population based on the demographic data and proper safety measures can be engaged before the situation gets worse. Isolating the infected person and the contacted ones is important to stop the spread of any disease. Adding to the isolation of the infected, it is important for the people around to be aware of the possibility of the spread and take necessary actions. 

Improved supply chain management: 

In the distribution of vaccine and delivery, many problems arise every day. Some underlying problems are forecasting of demand, identification of people who are not vaccinated, speedy supply of the vaccine, administration of the vaccine dose, storage and so on. All these problems can be solved with better supply chain management. AI can forecast demand and regulate the supply of the vaccine accordingly. The data of the people getting vaccinated can be stored and examined to not only provide a better vaccination experience but also to study post-vaccination effects if any. Smooth distribution of vaccine will ensure immunity in the masses against any virus or disease in the future. 

Virtual healthcare tools: 

Developing apps and platforms which can be installed in digital devices such as a smartwatch, phones, tablets, etc. which can analyze the patterns and combinations of actions, identifying any disturbance or abnormality which might later result in disease. This virtual healthcare system enables early diagnosis. Self-assessments and treatments will ensure a healthy body and better medical care and consultation. Virtual nurses and assistants are the real gamechanger, allowing people to get the assessment and treatment quickly. These virtual nurses can act as a reminder for regular medicines, medical emergency surveillance, assistance with prerecorded details by doctors, personalized checkups and monitoring, etc. 

Conclusion: 

Determining the use of any methodology or technology in advance has always resulted in being a great resource for humankind.  Including AI in healthcare has come a long way, helping and shaping a better future for all of us. In a time when the diseases are growing fast the preventions and vaccine discoveries are getting faster than in past decades. AI has helped in many ways, including all that we witnessed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Using the applications of AI and blockchain rather than going the traditional way might have shown some other results as compared to what we are seeing now. In the future, deploying such technologies will prevent pandemics from taking severe turns and providing therapeutics beforehand. 

 

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