How India Fights COVID With Artificial Intelligence

Four years before the COVID-19 was first reported, Bill Gates predicted the next big disaster would not be a nuclear war but an infectious virus. And, here we are today. While the rest of the world, and the very origin of the virus– Wuhan, seem to have started heading towards normalcy, India is far from anything but ‘normal’. 

Over the last decade, studies have shown India is way off the WHO’s recommended doctor-patient ratio (1:1456, according to the Economic Survey of India, 2019-20). That’s 456 extra patients for every doctor. 

Union Budget 2021 allocated about Rs 64,000 crore to boost the healthcare infrastructure in the country. Until last year, artificial intelligence accounted for only 1.9 percent of India’s healthcare industry. Now, more than ever, we are facing a dire need for technology intervention in the country’s health tech ecosystem. 

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Organisations are leveraging machine learning, software-as-a-service and data analytics etc to fight the ongoing pandemic.

Monitoring

Madurai and Telangana are using AI technology to track mask violators. Video analytic software parse data feeds from CCTVS in public places to detect people violating Health Department protocols. Until November, Madurai City Police had booked close to 47,000 people and collected close to Rs 89 lakh in fines. 

Pune-based startup Glimpse Analytics has been using AI to alert commercial stores and offices of social distancing violations during the pandemic.

Diagnosis 

In a few cases, the RT-PCR tests have failed to detect new COVID mutants leading to diagnostic centres overflowing with people doing CT scans and chest X-rays to confirm the diagnosis. 

Centre of Artificial Intelligence and Robotics, DRDO has developed an AI-based intelligent COVID detection application software ATMAN AI. The intelligent web-based software can classify images under ‘normal’, ‘COVID-19’, and ‘pneumonia’, using chest X-rays.

ATMAN AI is powered by a Deep Convolutional Neural Network. The software pre-processes the images before passing them to the neural net to take care of the variant illuminations levels of the X-Ray images. 

ATMAN AI can be accessed using mobiles, tablets, laptops or computers. DRDO claimed ATMAN AI had shown an accuracy of 96.73 percent on digital chest X-rays of RT-PCR positive patients. 

So far, ATMAN AI has been tested and validated by doctors from HCG Centre for Academics and Research and Ankh Life Care, in Bengaluru. 

Similarly, in April, IIT Kharagpur launched COVIRAP, a diagnostic tech to detect infectious diseases such as COVID-19. According to media sources, COVIRAP consists of a pre-programmable control unit, a special detection unit on genomic analysis and a customised smartphone app to display the test findings. 

Mumbai-based startup Qure.ai has developed qXR, a screening tool built with deep learning, to screen and diagnose COVID-19. Tata Consultancy Services has also been using AI for the screening of XRay plates and diagnosis of coronavirus. 

Assistance 

Last month, conversational CX platform Yellow Messenger launched Yellow Messenger Cares to empower medical support groups, hospitals and businesses.

Co-founder Raghu Ravinutala said, “If you are a company helping the cause of Covid-19, we want to help you by sharing the load. You could be an NGO, a hospital, an insurance company, or simply a voluntary organisation. All you need to do is let us know how you are contributing and the kind of chatbot services you need, and we’ll help you launch a chatbot.” 

Information 

Accenture and Microsoft partnered with the Indian Government’s Digital India Corporation to equip citizens with MyGov Saathi, an AI-chatbot to provide accurate, useful and latest information related to COVID-19. Saathi combines data and analytics, NLP and conversation AI capabilities to serve up to 50,000 users every day, said Accenture

Similarly, Whatsapp-based Introbot provides users with an evolving and verified database of beds, oxygen cylinders, plasma and other medical leads on request. The AI-community manager provides information on more than 300 cities across the country, and has responded to over five lakh plus COVID-19 affected families within the first week of its launch. 

Drug repurposing 

The process of drug discovery is not just time-consuming and risky but also extremely expensive. To that end, AI is being used to repurpose drugs to provide a cure for COVID-19. Indo-German organisation Innoplexus has been assessing the capabilities of Hydroxychloroquine (used to treat Malaria) and Remdesiver (drug against Ebola) against COVID-19. 

Delhi’s Indraprastha Institute of Information Technology developed an AI model last year for drug repurposing. The AI model computes the similarity between the chemical structure of the drug and the genomic structure of the virus. Post which, it checks the historical information about the drug’s efficacy on different viruses and selects the drug that has successfully treated viruses with a similar genomic structure of COVID-19.  

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Debolina Biswas
After diving deep into the Indian startup ecosystem, Debolina is now a Technology Journalist. When not writing, she is found reading or playing with paint brushes and palette knives. She can be reached at debolina.biswas@analyticsindiamag.com

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