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Letter to the Editor: “Outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19): What is the role of radiologists?”

by Yang Wang, Taige Chen, Xiaofan Lu, Fangrong Yan, Jun Wang, Bing Zhang (dr_wangjun@suda.edu.cn; f.r.yan@163.com; zhangbing_nanjing@vip.163.com)

Outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19): What is the role of radiologists?

AI lends itself to the war of COVID-19

Dear Editor,

We read with great interest the editorial, “Outbreak of novel coronavirus (COVID-19): What is the role of radiologists?” by Dr Hyungjin Kim published online on 18 February, 2020 [1]. The author mentioned that AI models for the chest radiographs and CT scans may help alleviate the burden of radiologists and clinicians and enhance rapid triaging given the shortage of manpower and hospital beds in China. As the pandemic accelerates, access to personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers all over the world is a key concern [2]. We urge health authorities to consider adopting artificial intelligence technology to reduce PPE consumption in medical departments (e.g. radiology) that do not require close contact with patients. Such assistive technologies have actually been widely used in China from January to March, 2020 with great success, and deserve worldwide attention.

We encourage a pioneering but practical solution that facilitates reducing or eliminating non-essential usage of PPE in pre-trial triage of COVID-19—U-HAPPY CT [3], an automated intelligent chest scanning system, which physically isolates the contact between radiographers and patients, thus also avoiding nosocomial infections. A chest CT scan at a fever clinic for example, utilizing such a technique, can eliminate almost 60% of the operating steps; requiring no replacement needs for PPE used by radiographers due to the contactless operation, and an impressive amount of saved PPE can be consequently used by other health-care workers for close-up needs (Figure).

U-HAPPY CT or other similar technologies save PPE which would otherwise be used by radiographers, for other health-care workers who have close-up needs, by simpler, but safer operational flow during the COVID-19 pandemic. The left panel showing a heavy protection of radiographer in traditional scanning while only a mask is needed in the middle panel with the assistance of the intelligent CT system, resulting in saving PPE for priorities like the right panel.

With the imminent pandemic, the safety of health-care workers must be ensured, and there is an opportunity for artificial intelligence to contribute to something truly vital.