AI ‘can help in Covid-19 fight’

EMERGING technologies can be utilised to reduce the need to visit hospitals and provide healthcare at home, it was highlighted.

During an online discussion on navigating the pandemic using Artificial Intelligence (AI), experts in Bahrain said the technology can be used to provide remote scanning and even diagnosis in some cases.

Supreme Council for Health project director Shaikh Khalid bin Hamad Al Khalifa said the need to fast-track the introduction of AI in the healthcare sector is a by-product of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have opportunities to utilise artificial intelligence, Covid-19 has created urgency and drive to adopt AI,” he said.


“The situation is a wave that we need to jump on to be prepared for the post Covid-19 situation and avoid similar impacts in the future.”

Shaikh Khalid said when the outbreak first started people were asked to stay clear of hospitals unless it was absolutely necessary – adding that this could be the future of healthcare in the country.

“Now there is a chance for healthcare to move out of hospitals and provide care at the extremities,” he said.

“This would improve many things such as cost and hygiene, provide high accessibility and, if done properly, improve the quality of care.”

He explained that products such as StethoMe, which is an artificial intelligence stethoscope, can be used at home and send the information for analysis to the physician via the cloud.

Such technologies can also alert patients on the urgency of seeing their physician.

“Tele-monitoring and remote monitoring solutions are serving healthcare at the edge, avoiding sending patients to the hospitals and congesting hospitals with patients who do not really need to go to the hospitals that urgently,” said Shaikh Khalid.

“There are many areas tele-monitoring or remote monitoring can really help such as mental health, various therapies, and chronic diseases.

“If you search for applications and devices being developed using artificial intelligence there are numerous ones that can be standardised and used going forward.”

He highlighted another aspect of AI that can be used in the near future, especially as living with Covid-19 becomes the ‘new normal’, which is mass scanning. He explained that this can help make spaces with populated foot traffic such as shopping malls or sports stadiums safer.

“Currently facilities such as stadiums are closed due to the unavailability of mass screening technologies and if we want to move on within the current situation then mass screening technology plays an important role,” he added.

“This will provide the detection necessary to open up these facilities without jeopardising the community.

“The technology can have different applications such as temperature monitoring and how people are adhering to the guidelines such as identifying people who are wearing masks and finding people who are breaching social distancing protocols.”


He also discussed using AI-driven chat bots to help with call centres such as Bahrain’s 444 hotline, which has been key in providing information about the virus and the steps needed to get tested or for home quarantine.

The webinar, titled ‘BotTalk’, was hosted under the patronage of Shura Council chairman Ali Saleh Al Saleh and was the first of an ongoing series that discusses AI in various fields.

Also speaking at the webinar were Bahrain University eLearning director Dr Shaikha Fay bint Abdulla Al Khalifa and Shura Council member Dr Ahmed Nasser.



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