Doctors are using AI to triage covid-19 patients

24 Apr, 2020
Faced with staff shortages and overwhelming patient loads, a growing number of hospitals are turning to automated tools to help them manage the pandemic.

Rizwan Malik had always had an interest in AI. As the lead radiologist at the Royal Bolton Hospital, run by the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), he saw its potential to make his job easier. In his hospital, patients often had to wait six hours or more for a specialist to look at their x-rays. If an emergency room doctor could get an initial reading from an AI-based tool, it could dramatically shrink that wait time. A specialist could follow up the AI system’s reading with a more thorough diagnosis later.

So in September of last year, Malik took it upon himself to design a conservative clinical trial that would help showcase the technology’s potential. He identified a promising AI-based chest x-ray system called qXR from the Mumbai-based company He then proposed to test the system over six months. For all chest x-rays handled by his trainees, it would offer a second opinion. If those opinions consistently matched his own, he would then phase the system in permanently to double-check his trainees’ work for him. After four months of reviews from multiple hospital and NHS committees and forums, the proposal was finally approved.