Baguio explores AI technology in COVID-19 fight

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Baguio City is leaving no stone unturned in the fight against Coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

On top of the established testing procedure topbilled by the Reverse Transcriptase-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) or swab test which remains as the country’s gold standard for testing COVID-19, the city government is also exploring other emerging technologies on virus detection.

The city under Mayor Benjamin Magalong earlier agreed to serve as pilot testing site for the country’s Antigen test study and recently, it also considered the conduct of a joint research on the Artificial Intelligence-powered diagnostic imaging algorithm that uses actual medical images of COVID-19 patients developed by the NTT DATA company.

The research aiming to establish the AI technology as a tool in COVID-19 detection and triaging will be done in cooperation with Conexionify Solutions Inc. and the city’s medical practitioners led by Dr. Ruel Revilla.

The company said the system “(1) compares the medical image and with text; (2) enhances the diagnostic work of radiologists using X-rays and CT scans aiding the diagnosis by a doctor and (3) provides general support for doctors to determine the status of COVID-19 infections.”

NTT – Data Chief Operating Officer Christer Cruz emphasized that results generated from the AI interface will be evaluated vis-a-vis the findings of radiologists.

He said the AI technology does not seek to “replace the expert opinion of radiologists and other medical specialists but rather, it aims to facilitate and assist them in the management of the rising cases.”

Mayor Magalong said that as part of the research, 1,000 individuals in the city will be subjected to the AI process starting Oct. 3.  They include police trainees and personnel, caddies, food handlers and others considered susceptible to the virus.

Results will also be validated through the conduct of confirmatory swab tests.

The outcome of the research will be crucial in determining action on the NTT AI project proposal.

The Philippine College of Radiology will await development as according to radiologist Dr. Rey Anthony Leung, the ability or usefulness of any form of imaging and the AI technology to detect COVID-19 still need to be proven before they can be promoted.

“In an atmosphere of uncertainty in a health crisis, a dynamic yet calibrated and reliable scientific approach is still of essence,” he said.

Aileen P. Refuerzo

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