How AI in Healthcare and Retail Plays a Role in Combating the COVID-19 Pandemic

The pace of digital innovation is accelerating across all industries in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you’re a nurse or doctor on the frontlines of patient care, or a retailer providing food and other critical supplies to people on lockdown across the globe, artificial intelligence (AI) technologies play an instrumental role.

This blog highlights some important use cases and explains how NetApp and NVIDIA are collaborating to deliver AI-powered solutions that can help these critical efforts.

AI in Healthcare

There have been a number of recent AI developments that demonstrate the important role AI is playing in the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, an AI “early warning system” was among the first to detect the signs of the new pathogen emerging in Hubei province.

recent STAT article identified a number of ways that hospitals are using AI to fight the disease, including:

  • Screening people who might be infected
  • Identifying high-risk patients
  • Screening frontline healthcare workers
  • Distinguishing COVID-19 from other respiratory illnesses using X-rays or CT scans

Medical Imaging and COVID-19

Distinguishing COVID-19 from other lung ailments using medical imaging is an area with significant promise, offering an alternative means of testing in situations where RT-PCR tests are in short supply or laboratories are backed up.

In late March, an open-source model called COVID-Net was released for this purpose. This convolutional neural net (CNN) was trained using almost 6,000 images from more than 2,800 patients. The researchers have released the training set—which includes examples of bacterial infections, non-COVID viral infections, and other lung conditions in addition to COVID-19—along with the model. Many similar modeling efforts are in progress in addition to COVID-Net.

Medical Imaging Reference Architecture

NetApp recently brought to market an integrated medical imaging solution based on NVIDIA Clara Train SDK v2.0 leveraging NVIDIA DGX-2 and NetApp AFF flash storage that is well-suited to COVID-19 and other medical imaging classification and segmentation problems. The complete solution demonstrates a data pipeline architecture for image acquisition, data curation, AI-assisted annotation, and transfer learning to fine tune existing AI models.

For this solution, NetApp worked closely with the NVIDIA Clara team to create a full technical report, accessible at the following link:

Medical School Turns to NetApp to Accelerate AI Pipeline for Lung Disease

While COVID-19 is rightly getting most of the attention right now, at least 250 million people worldwide suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), resulting in 400,000 deaths per year in the United States alone. Early detection and constant monitoring are needed to slow the progression of the disease.

NetApp data infrastructure capable of handling massive imaging data sets helped Hannover Medical School (MHH) apply an AI model to automate segmentation for COPD cases, reducing diagnosis time from hours to minutes. The method has the potential to reduce time-consuming manual tasks, minimize human error, and bring down costs, while scaling the number of cases that can be handled by a single physician.

NetApp was immensely valuable in providing performance and reliability to gain sustained flows of data. It perfectly matches our compute power and, thus, allows us to improve the image quality, accelerate the data pipeline, and run five times more data in the same time.

—Dr. Hinrich Winther, Resident, Institute for Diagnostic and Interventional Radiology, MHH

Free Access to AI Infrastructure for Genomics

AI and genomic studies are an essential tool in combating the pandemic. To help researchers accelerate AI-based genomics research, Core Scientific is providing free 30-day access to ONTAP AI, enabling researchers to take advantage of the combination of NVIDIA GPU computing and NetApp cloud-connected AI flash storage systems, in combination with NVIDIA Parabricks for genomic analysis.

AI in Retail

AI can also help ensure the supply of food and other goods to the billions of people on lockdown around the globe, including:

  • Helping manage supply chains in the face of unexpected demands and workforce disruptions
  • Providing a safe in-store experience by minimizing the risk of infection for shoppers and workers in groceries and pharmacies
  • Optimizing online retail and delivery in response to unprecedented digital orders

According to a recent National Retail Federation survey, 40% of companies are already seeing COVID-19-related supply chain disruptions. Companies that have made investments in AI are likely to be more resilient. AI can help supply chains improve prediction and demand forecasting, increase warehouse automation, and optimize delivery routes in the face of huge increases.

Cashier-less Checkout

When I first heard about Amazon Go, I thought the technology was exciting, but I didn’t necessarily see it changing my life. Now, every time I have to touch a smudge-covered pay point or watch someone else touch my groceries, it makes perfect sense.

While this type of cashier-less checkout technology is still rare in the US—and likely won’t be deployed in time to have an impact on the current pandemic—our collective experiences will pave the way. A number of simpler stand-ins for the full suite of technologies are already appearing, including “scan and go” apps that take the place of both traditional and self-checkout check stands, allowing you to scan and bag items using your own phone, thereby reducing infection risk from shared equipment.

Eliminating Customer Service Bottlenecks

The combination of supply chain, workforce, and safety challenges faced by both traditional and online retailers puts a significant burden on customer service. Contact center call volumes are going up while the number of agents on the job is going down. This is one of the clearest areas where AI can help retailers significantly and quickly. An intelligent virtual assistant or chatbot can handle a large percentage of customer contacts efficiently without human involvement.

NetApp is demonstrating automatic speech recognition (ASR), natural language processing and understanding (NLP/NLU), and speech synthesis capabilities (text-to-speech, TTS). We have developed a virtual assistant for the retail industry, that will help companies deploy new capabilities more rapidly. NetApp’s edge-to-core-to-cloud data management provides unique advantages for virtual assistants and other NLP applications with seamless data movement, replication, and data protection.

This assistant also has the potential for use in other industries, including healthcare.



Benefits of SMS Alerts in Healthcare Industry

A competitive landscape and rising healthcare costs necessitate healthcare providers to manage costs while maintaining high-quality patient care and support services. Also, with rising cyber-attacks, they need to secure endpoints for mitigating the risk of loss of data.

The use of mobile messaging for effectively managing data and communication is a proven method of reducing costs, improving workflow processes and optimizing patient care services.

Here are the top benefits of deploying SMS technology in healthcare institutions:

1) Booking/Appointment reminder

A 2-way SMS text is an effective way of scheduling and sending reminders to patients of their appointments. This frees up administrative resources and time resulting in cost savings.

2) Diagnostic test reports

Non-confidential, routine health test results can be sent via SMS text to patients reducing patient follow-up calls and commute thereby enhancing operational efficiency

3) Queue system

An SMS alert is useful for informing patients of their queue number when there is limited space available in the healthcare institution or patients are experiencing longer waiting time.

4) 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) Security

A second layer of security via SMS One-Time-Password, 2FA mode can help mitigate cyber-security breaches and allow the doctors and patients to securely access information even from remote locations.

5) Emergency Call

If the patient’s health deteriorates or any code blue situation arises, the nurse can call the call centre who will then send out an SMS alert to the doctors cutting down crucial time to respond.

6) Internal Business Messaging

Use of personal mobile devices to communicate sensitive information can expose the healthcare institution to potential leakage of confidential data sqoope (by TalariaX) is a HIPAA compliant platform through which internal staff can share information securely.

7) Feedback and survey

SMS is a convenient and faster way to gather feedback from patients on the quality of services being offered by the healthcare institution.

TalariaX is a leading industry player in developing and providing enterprise mobile messaging solutions for improving business workflow and productivity. Our range of solutions includes IT Alerts and Notifications, 2-Factor Authentication with SMS OTP, Marketing & Emergency Broadcasting.


Security Solutions — An Effective Treatment for Healthcare Challenges

Hospital security poses unique challenges; patient safety is critical, especially considering the vulnerability of the population, yet many hospitals areas are accessible to the public. That’s why patient safety initiatives are incredibly important — having security cameras in hospitals to detect and verify potentially critical events and maintaining secure access to high-risk areas is paramount.

Video Security Gets AI-Treatment

The role of artificial intelligence (AI) in security has been transformative. AI-powered security solutions, such as our Unusual Motion Detection (UMD) technology, augment the effectiveness of thorough video coverage in hospitals by helping take care of the detection function of security, allowing operators to focus their time and attention on verifying alarms and proactively responding to events instead of simply monitoring screens.

Given the open accessibility of many healthcare facilities, an improved ability to detect, verify and act on potentially critical events is extremely valuable for both patient safety and hospital security, making AI technology an important component of advanced security systems in healthcare today.

Our Security Department’s mission at Charlotte Hungerford Hospital is the safety of our patients, visitors, and employees. Avigilon was chosen because of its high-quality imaging and advanced technology that have brought efficiencies to my job.
– Chad Rioux, Director of Security, Charlotte Hungerford Hospital

Avigilon ACM™ System Alleviates Access Aches and Pains

Secure access is another crucial component of hospital security. Restricting access to sensitive areas — such as medication storage cabinets or units with a high risk of patient elopement — can have a huge impact on patient safety and loss prevention.

Our Access Control Manager (ACM) system works together with Avigilon Control Center (ACC) video management software to produce action-based alarms and notifications when potential breaches occur, helping to ensure that only authorized individuals gain entry to restricted areas and expediting event correlation during investigations. By effectively limiting access, hospitals can help decrease patient elopement, protect valuable assets and minimize medication theft.

Radios Remedy Critical Communications Challenges

For an end-to-end security solution, Motorola Solutions land mobile radios complement Avigilon solutions by allowing security operators to quickly convey critical information that helps enable faster response. When unusual activity is detected by video security or a restricted access control event occurs, the operator in the video control room can radio roaming security officers for further investigation. By deploying a complete security solution that delivers actionable results from the time a potentially critical event is detected until after an incident is resolved, hospitals can take a proactive approach to security.

Maintaining hospital security is no easy task — but it’s absolutely crucial. Technologies such as AI-powered video analytics, advanced access control systems and critical communications solutions can augment the abilities of officers to detect and verify potentially critical events while also enabling them to proactively respond when needed, mitigating risks to patient safety. By deploying these solutions within their facility, hospitals are better positioned to protect what matters most — their patients, staff and resources.  

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