CORONAVIRUS/Taiwan approves AI-based detection system for COVID-19

05/30/2021 08:04 PM
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Tu Yi-chin (left), founder of Taiwan AI Labs. CNA file photo
Tu Yi-chin (left), founder of Taiwan AI Labs. CNA file photo

Taipei, May 30 (CNA) The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Sunday it has approved the use of an artificial intelligence (AI) system that will help doctors to read chest X-rays and thus more quickly detect COVID-19 infections.

The AI-based diagnostic system was developed jointly by a startup called Taiwan Medical Imaging Co. and some medical institutions, according to FDA official Wu Ting-yao (吳亭瑤).

The startup is owned by Tu Yi-chin (杜奕瑾), founder of Taiwan AI Labs and Professional Technology Temple (PTT), the largest electronic bulletin board system in Taiwan, Wu said.

The AI system can be used, alongside PCR testing and rapid antigen tests, as a fast diagnostic tool to detect COVID-19 cases by pinpointing a suspected chest infection on X-ray images, he said.

On May 27, the FDA gave approval, on a special case basis, for commercialization of the AI system, in light of the current COVID-19 situation in Taiwan, Wu said.

Hsiao Shih-hsin (蕭世欣), an attending physician at Taipei Medical University Hospital, said the technology will be particularly useful in cases where an undiagnosed asymptomatic COVID-19 patient visits a doctor with some other ailment.

In such circumstances, the AI system can be used to read the chest X-ray images of the person and issue an alert if it detects a possible COVID-19 infection, Hsiao said.

Another doctor also welcomed the FDA's approval of the AI system, saying it can be used as a fast detection tool among medical personnel if a COVID-19 case emerges in a hospital.

With the use of the AI system, there will be no immediate need for the entire hospital staff to be tested, in such a situation, said Lee Chien-chang (李建璋), deputy director of the Center of Intelligent Healthcare at National Taiwan University Hospital and an attending physician in the Department of Emergency Medicine.

By taking chest X-rays of those with suspicious symptoms and having the AI system read the images, doctors will be able to identify those who have contracted COVID-19, Lee said.

In addition to the advantages of speeding up COVID-19 diagnosis and saving manpower, the AI system can also help reduce the incidence of errors among overworked radiologists, he added.

Lee said that in the clinical trials, the AI system had an 80 percent accuracy rate for the detection of COVID-19.

(By Chiang Hui-chun, Chang Ming-hsuan and Evleyn Kao)

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