South Korean firm Lunit makes its AI-powered software to detect COVID-19 free

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South Korea based medical AI software firm that develops AI-powered analysis of lung diseases via chest x-ray images said that it will be releasing its software online, free of charge, to help healthcare professionals manage across the globe. Korea’s response to is being highlighted by experts as a strong public health approach to reigning in the outbreak, one that provides a lesson for the rest of the world.

Coronavirus is known to cause pneumonia, which can be found as “consolidation” on chest x-ray images. The software, developed by Lunit, is an AI solution for chest x-ray analysis, detecting 10 different radiologic findings including lung nodule, consolidation, and more with 97-99% accuracy. For the online release, the company said it is providing consolidation findings only, which is suggestive of coronavirus-related pneumonia.

“We hope our decision to publicly release a special version of our software can help ease the strain in the healthcare system in countries around the world,” said Brandon Suh, CEO of Lunit. “Our AI solution has been in use at coronavirus care centers in South Korea, which is one of the countries that are successfully “flattening the curve” by applying diverse and innovative measures in the battle against the virus.”

In South Korea, the company said Lunit INSIGHT CXR has been deployed to assist the diagnosis of COVID-19 patients from Daegu and nearby region, the hardest-hit area where approximately 8,000 patients—about 85% of the entire domestic cases—has been diagnosed. Seoul National University Hospital has built a coronavirus care center in Daegu, where physicians remotely examine patients via video call.

The patients’ chest x-ray images are sent directly to radiologists in Seoul, where Lunit INSIGHT CXR is used to support the radiologists in the management of COVID-19. The system helps healthcare professionals in the prompt and early discovery of patients, sending them directly to larger hospitals for proper treatment if required.

The company informed that beyond South Korea, the same software has also been installed at PreventSenior, one of the largest hospital networks in Brazil with 8 locations throughout the metropolitan region of Sao Paulo. PreventSenior is one of the COVID-19 detection centers that use chest x-ray screening for patients with mild symptoms.

Physicians and radiologists working at Lunit suggest that the AI may be used as a supportive tool during case overload, which can likely lead to low reading quality, or with portable x-ray devices to fast-track test results and decision-making in advance to the PCR results, which is the test for a definitive diagnosis for coronavirus.

“The current coronavirus epidemic is burdening health care providers around the world with massive demands for tests, diagnosis, and treatment,” said Ki Hwan Kim, Chief Medical Officer of Lunit. “While PCR is used to make a definitive diagnosis for coronavirus, chest x-ray can also be a fast, effective, and affordable test to evaluate coronavirus-related pneumonia, but the massive shortage of interpreting radiologists exists as a hurdle. AI can provide assistance.”

Citing an internal study, the company claimed that anteroposterior chest X-rays (CXRs) of 6 patients confirmed to have coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) at the time of admission were retrospectively analyzed by Lunit INSIGHT CXR. Both radiologists and AI correctly detected CXR abnormalities from x-ray images of three patients with clearly visible lesions. Neither radiologist nor AI was able to detect subtle or non-visible lesions from the other three patients.

“The AI can instantly interpret chest x-ray images to select suspicious cases that warrant further action to whether or not isolate the patient even before PCR confirmation,” said Kim. “Lunit INSIGHT CXR may be beneficial especially as a triage tool for non-radiologists, or even for non-doctors in extreme cases.”

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