We previously highlighted the integral role AI is playing in healthcare supply chain security to prevent theft and diversion of pharmaceutical drugs that have a high risk of abuse and dependency – but the use of AI is now rapidly evolving in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the virus began to disrupt global operations, hospitals and governments have embraced AI as a tool to address limited emergency room capacities and shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE), ventilators and ICU beds.

As a Harvard Business Review article emphasizes, AI has a place in bettering hospital functions and saving lives, and is on the forefront of forward-facing security.

Hospital AI and Security Go Hand in Hand

During the COVID-19 crisis, we have been helping our clients in the healthcare community with everything from developing emergency action plans for pandemics to establishing alternate care sites (ACS).

We see AI in the healthcare space as a tool to achieve our goals of protecting staff, patients and the public. For example, AI technology that detects if someone is running a fever can prevent the disease from spreading and ensure that person receives immediate care – and that’s the kind of preventative approach considered best practice in security.

AI Has the Power to Mitigate Contagion Risk

Florida’s Tampa General Hospital, in collaboration with Care.ai, is using an AI system at its entrance in order to intercept people who may have COVID-19 symptoms and prevent them from visiting patients. Specially positioned cameras conduct facial thermal scans to identify discoloration, sweat and other symptoms.

In China, a no-contact infrared sensor system singles out individuals in crowded railway stations who have a fever, so that they can be prevented from possibly spreading contagious disease. The Government of South Korea released an app that helps users self-report symptoms and notify others if they were leaving designated quarantine areas.

Facilities Use AI to Protect Capacity Limitations

Providence St. Joseph Health System in Seattle, in partnership with Microsoft, created an online screening and triage tool that quickly differentiates between likely COVID-19 patients and those suffering from other ailments. The tool was successful in serving over 40,000 patients in just the first week. Partners Health Care is now developing a similar AI-based online tool to help triage patients at urgent care centers, primary care provider offices, respiratory illness clinics and hospital emergency rooms.

Safeguarding Precious Resources with AI Technology

Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital have partnered with Boston Dynamics and MIT to explore deploying robots to perform critical services, like obtaining vital signs and delivering medication, that would otherwise require human contact with a nurse, nurses aid or physician.

Wuhan Wuchang Hospital in China put in place a smart field hospital staffed largely by intelligent robots alleviating healthcare personnel exposure to the virus and relieving the burden on exhausted doctors and nurses. By using AI technology to perform services, staff can reserve scarce PPE to conduct checks and attend to more critical patients.

Hospital AI Will Have a Lasting Impact on Security

COIVD-19 has unquestionably fast-tracked these AI applications and much will be learned through its utilization during this crisis. I suspect we will see a lot more AI-driven technologies at future security trade shows and the topic of many conversations about security best practices. A number of these AI applications will have value and relevance to organizations beyond the healthcare environment in protecting their employees, customers, property and processes in our post-COVID-19 world.