Can AI-backed tuberculosis software help detect lung cancer too? – ET HealthWorld


Mumbai: In 2022, BMC health officials discovered that artificial intelligence-backed software detected tuberculosis in some people months before the telltale symptoms of the disease, such as a cough, appeared.

Now, Proud.ai, a city-based startup that has installed the AI ​​software at nine BMC hospitals and a mobile van wants to upgrade the program to detect lung cancer as well.

BMC Chief Health Officer Dr Mangala Gomare said: “Of the 1,050 people diagnosed with TB by AI in 2022, 35 per cent were asymptomatic. It was helpful that they were identified before they could spread the disease in the community”.

Our AI-enabled chest X-ray solution for TB screening can also be used to detect other abnormalities such as lung nodules that could be indicative of cancer.” Proud.ai founder Prashant Warier said, adding: “We will explore a partnership with BMC to target lung cancer by expanding our program in places where AI-based TB screening is active.”

City start-up Qure.ai, which is helping the BMC with AI-supported software for early detection of TB cases, is exploring a link with the civic body to also target lung cancer. BMC Chief Health Officer Dr Mangala Gomare said it would be helpful if the algorithm used for TB could also be used to detect lung cancer.

AI conversations are dominated by chatbots like ChatGPT, Bing, or Bard, but senior endocrinologist Dr. Anoop Misra believes AI is leading a “revolution” in healthcare. From spotting trends, analyzing results, and helping with research writing, AI is quickly becoming a part of medicine.

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As editor of ‘Diabetes & Metabolic Syndrome: Clinical Research & Reviews’, an indexed medical journal, Delhi-based Misra has already led and edited reviews on AI-based medical tools. “AI has great potential in all branches of medicine, whether it’s radiology, ophthalmology or multiple clinical fields,” he said, adding that doctors who can’t understand AI “will be left behind.”

Around the world, multiple studies are underway to verify if and how AI and Big Data can further help medicine. At Zydus Hospital in Ahmedabad and Aster MIMS in Kozhikode, Warier’s AI-based stroke management program is leading to faster stroke diagnosis. “Our apps help doctors and Medtronic India is helping hospitals with training and solutions,” she said.

More than a week ago, a research paper in Nature Medicine highlighted that an AI-based program could detect pancreatic cancer, which is more difficult to detect in its early stages, at least three years in advance. The joint study by Harvard University and the University of Copenhagen used patients’ medical records for the prediction.

But not everyone is impressed yet. According to Dr. Shailesh Shrikhande, deputy director of Tata Memorial Hospital and a pancreatic cancer surgeon, “AI currently relies on big data in various algorithms. If the data is of good quality, we can get good inferences and insights,” he said. However, accessing high-quality data is not easy, especially when an algorithm needs tens of thousands of data points.

“If we have a high-quality data-driven AI tool, it would definitely serve as a complementary guide for clinicians,” said Dr. Shrikhande. At the moment, however, there is no AI-based algorithm for pancreatic cancer that can be used for the general public. In their conclusion to the Nature Medicine article, the researchers said their results would help “design realistic surveillance programs for patients at elevated risk” of pancreatic cancer. “It still can’t be used as a general screening tool,” he said.

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Warrier also said that most concerns regarding AI in healthcare stem from the need for “unbiased” and “secure” handling of patient data. He added: “AI is not a replacement for healthcare providers. Instead, it is an effective tool to augment their efforts.”

Dr. Misra agreed: “Clinicians have to use their judgment and experience to interpret AI data at this point. Nothing is 100 percent yet.”

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  • Updated On May 21, 2023 at 06:02 PM IST
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  • Posted on May 21, 2023 at 17:56 IST
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  • 3 min read
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