The Thailand Center of Excellence for Life Sciences (TCELS) under the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation, has teamed up with strategic partners under the Yothi Medical Innovation District (YMID) including Phyathai Hospital Group-Paolo Hospital Group and public organizations in developing an AI technology-based screening device to detect pneumonia associated with COVID-19.
Dr. Nares Damrongchai, CEO of TCELS, said that the novel coronavirus or COVID-19 outbreak has become a catalyst for technology transformation in medical and healthcare services. With the highly infectious respiratory disease continuing its spread across the world, with more than 11 million confirmed cases in 188 countries as of 5 July 2020, measures to detect, control and track the disease remain key to preventing a second wave of the outbreak. It is therefore essential to look for new technology to help improve the efficiency of screening and monitoring.
One of the emerging technologies in medical and healthcare services is AI (Artificial Intelligence), Dr. Nares added. Because of its capacity for big data accessibility, speed and high level of accuracy in logical processing, AI has been adopted to develop medical innovations to support various services during the spread of COVID-19.
The TCELS has provided support to the research & innovation center of Phyathai Hospital Group-Paolo Hospital Group in their collaboration with Rajavithi Hospital and the Center for Medical Genomics at the Faculty of Medicine, Ramathibodi Hospital of Mahidol University to develop an AI-based screening device to detect COVID-19 related pneumonia. The project has also been supported by three private firms, namely Advanced Info Services, Mellow Innovation, and JLK Inspection Korea, all of which have experience and expertise in the application of AI in the medical field. They are providing AI technology for the research at no expense. The project is another example of the partnership between public and private organizations that seeks to help relieve the workload of medical personnel during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dr. Prapasri Benchasiriluck, Director, Medical Research and Innovation development Department, and Head of Private Accelerated Research and Innovation Center under Phyathai Hospital Group-Paolo Hospital Group, said that the center and its strategic partners have developed a Portable Chest X-ray (CXR) based on AI technology to detect this particular type of pneumonia. Thanks to the precision technologies of Mellow Innovation and JLK Inspection Korea, the CXR is able to diagnose 15 diseases from an analysis of the chest x-ray. The technology has been certified by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of South Korea for preliminary screening of COVID-19 pneumonia in Thailand.
The collaboration between the center and Rajavithi Hospital in assessing the precision of AI compared with radiology has shown that AI can help a physician interpret lung imaging with about 90% accuracy and at a higher speed. Supported by Mellow Innovation, the project has been successful in connecting the database with AI.
Dr. Prapasri added that the CXR project is in a process of the second assessment of accuracy, as the final stage used to detect infection in medical personnel, at-risk groups and volunteers. The center would then compare the AI interpretation with the detection of SARS-CoV-2B using the molecular biology technique. The researchers from the center and the Center for Medical Genomics at the Faculty of Medicine Ramathibodi Hospital would take swab tests from infected patients to confirm the accuracy of the AI. The project will be completed before the end of the year and then used for the detection of COVID-19 pneumonia.
Dr. Thouantosaporn Suwanjuthah, Director of academic and research development and international partnership department at the Phyathai-Paolo Medical Campus (PMC), and Director of the medical support department, Phyathai Hospital 2, said that the pandemic has clearly revealed that no one was prepared for the significant spread of COVID-19 through asymptomatic people, meaning that the thermoscan technique is unable to detect the disease in infected cases with no fever.
As a result, specialists in all fields, especially radiologists and radiological technologists at the PMC, are interested in an AI-based X-ray device that will help in the detection of suspected COVID-19 cases. This modern tool will enable the specialists to diagnose many more patients with a high level of accuracy.
Asst. Prof. Sathit Niramitmahapanya, a senior medical professional at the Internal Medicine Section and Head of the medical innovation division, Rajavithi Hospital, said that Rajavithi Hospital is one of the state hospitals assigned to screen and treat COVID patients under the disease control practices set by the Department of Disease Control under the Ministry of Public Health. Because of the high number of patients during the spread of virus, Rajavithi Hospital attempted to develop innovations to enhance the efficiency of medical services. If the development of the AI-based Chest X-ray device to detect the COVID-19 pneumonia proves successful, it will help reduce the workload of medical personnel and enable them to treat the patients quickly and effectively. The hospital believes that when this emerging AI diagnostic tool comes into service, it can be supplied to the hospitals that lack screening equipment.
Prof. Dr. Wasun Chantratita, Head of the Center for Medical Genomes at the Faculty of Medicine, Ramathibodi Hospital of Mahidol University, explained that the center has provided support for molecular biology techniques in the testing the sensitivity of the AI-based X-ray system from swabs of infected patients to detect SARS-CoV-2 and more than 25,000 pathogenic species, and its specificity to separate COVID-19 pneumonia from other causes.
Mr. Ronasit Poomma, Managing Director of Mellow Innovation, said that the company would like to thank supporters who recognized the importance of adopting AI for the detection of COVID-19. The company expects that this research will improve the efficiency of screening, prevention, control of the outbreak and treatment. In addition, it would create a new standard for AI technology. Medical devices based on the AI platform are already being successfully used in hospitals and public health centers and it is anticipated that the number and type of devices using AI to diagnose and treat patients will increase in the future.
Mr. Arakin Rakchittapoke, Head of AIS Novel Engine Execution Team, said that AIS provided digital technologies, namely AIS 5G, AIS Fibre, Robotic Cloud and the AIS Partner Platform to support the project development. These technologies help enhance the efficiency of AI.
“As a leader in digital life services, AIS is determined to collaborate with strategic partners in all fields in the continued development of innovations. The company is proud to play a role in creating innovations to improve the quality of life of the Thai people and move the country forward with technology infrastructure. The aim is to speed up economic and social development through the Open Innovation Framework. AIS also collaborates with strategic partners in creating innovations via the AIS Playground Garage to support research. So far, AIS has signed agreements with more than 25 partners including individuals who specialize in user experience design and business models. The AIS Playground Garage will help catalyze the translation of the research into commercialization to cope with the current situation,” Mr. Arakin concluded.