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The world wasn't prepared for COVID-19: In future, AI will curb the next pandemic

AI can play a huge role in predicting an outbreak and also minimising or stalling its spread.

ET CONTRIBUTORS|
Last Updated: Mar 28, 2020, 10.46 AM IST
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The role of AI and big data in treating global pandemics and other healthcare challenges is only set to grow.
By Krishna Kumar

When it comes to infectious diseases, prevention, surveillance and rapid-response efforts can go a long way toward slowing or stalling outbreaks. When a pandemic such as the recent coronavirus outbreak happens, it can create huge challenges for the government and public health officials to gather information quickly and coordinate a response.

In such a situation, artificial intelligence (AI) can play a huge role in predicting an outbreak and also minimising or stalling its spread.

Detecting An Epidemic
AI algorithms can help mine through news reports and online content from around the world, helping experts recognise anomalies even before it reaches epidemic proportions. The corona outbreak itself is a great example where researchers applied AI to study flight traveller data to predict where the novel coronavirus could pop up next. A National Geographic report demonstrates how monitoring the internet or social media can help detect the early stages of a potential outbreak.

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​The Corona Conundrum

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Holding hands, an affectionate gesture with romantic undertones, has become taboo in the time of the coronavirus. Handshakes, too, have been outlawed in the boardroom as well as stadiums - and after closing a deal, folks now pick up their phones and send each other formal emails.Lovers in parks sit on benches, their hands skidding across smartphone screens, sending emoji-laced messages. However, exercising one’s primary tactile organs to communicate through gestures might not be as dangerous as using a mobile phone.
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Successful implementation of predictive modelling could represent a major leap forward in the fight to rid the world of some of the most infectious diseases. Big data analytics can help de-centralise the process and enable the timely analysis of widespread data sets generated through Internet of Things (IoT) and mobile devices in real-time.

Building Intelligence And Knowledge
AI and big data analytics have a big role to play in modern genome sequencing methods. High-resolution computer-generated simulation allows scientists to study and interpret large disease-related data sets to learn more about how they spread. A greater understanding of these phenomena can empower the community to respond far more rapidly to attacks.

Augmenting Medical Care
Recently, we’ve all seen poignant images of healthcare professionals across the globe working tirelessly to treat COVID-19 patients, often putting their own lives at risk. AI could play a crucial role in lightening their load while ensuring that the quality of care does not suffer. For instance, the Tampa General Hospital in Florida is using AI to detect fever in visitors with a simple facial scan. AI is also helping doctors at the Sheba Medical Center in Israel to predict complications such as respiratory failure or sepsis in COVID-19 patients.

iStock
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The corona outbreak is a great example where researchers applied AI to study flight traveller data to predict where the novel coronavirus could pop up next

Demand For AI Talent In Healthcare To Go Up
The role of AI and big data in treating global pandemics and other healthcare challenges is only set to grow. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that demand for professionals with AI skills has more than doubled over the past three years. Professionals working in healthcare technologies, getting educated on the applications of AI in healthcare and building the right skill-sets will prove to be crucial.

As AI quickly becomes mainstream, healthcare is certainly an area where it will play a big role in keeping us safer and healthier.

(The author is CEO and Founder of Simplilearn, a global ed-tech company which provides skilling programs for tech professionals)

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(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of www.economictimes.com.)
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