Artificial intelligence is being used in Belgium to decide what treatment to give COVID-19 patients, including who will be sent home and who will stay for treatment in the wards.
News that the software is currently in use comes as it was revealed Belgium is getting dangerously close to running short of intensive care beds for the sick.
The Belgian company, called Icometrix, working together with 40 Belgian partners including local hospitals has developed software that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to estimate the survival chances of COVID-19 patients.
Icometrix Chief Technical Officer Dirk Smeets said: “We work on the basis of CT scans from the hospital’s COVID-19 departments. It was important that we had as much data as possible for the development of the software and the applications of AI. Based on those scans, we look at exactly how much lung tissue has been affected.
“Computers simply do that better than radiologists. We succeed with our software to quantify the amount of affected lung tissue. At the same time, this helps to better estimate a patient’s chances of survival.”
By then allowing the AI to analyse the scans, they said they could find out if the lung tissue was strong enough to send the patient home for further isolation, saying: “That is very important for the triage. It can ensure that the burden on hospitals is reduced and that patients receive the best possible care.”
The software has already been rolled out in 30 Belgian hospitals.
Professor Johan De Mey, head of radiology at the University Hospital of Brussels, said: “Thanks to the cloud, improvements to the AI algorithm are immediately available to us, which is essential in this rapidly evolving pandemic.”
Belgium has 2,400 intensive care beds, with only half of those are available for COVOD_19 patients, and there are currently 906 that need ventilators meaning the country is close to capacity.
In Italy, doctors spoke about having to make life-and-death decisions on who would be allowed to stay and get a ventilator, and who would not.
Medics in Belgium have said that they might be able to further delay the time they need to make similar decisions if the number of infections continues to grow by further increasing the available beds to 1700, which could be done by deferring nonurgent interventions.
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