Facebook claims it’s AI can help predict the need for better Covid-19 care

When it comes to timing its announcements, Facebook can teach a lesson or two to its competitors. Precisely when the social media giant was in the eye of a storm over Whatsapp’s new privacy guidelines, the company has come out with a prescription for the healthcare industry working overtime in Covid-19 cure. 

In an elaborate blog post, Facebook says that it could use artificial intelligence (AI) to predict the need for better or more focussed care of Covid-19 patients. This, it said, is part of the outcomes of researches conducted by an in-house AI unit wherein the healthcare professionals could be warned of the need for intensive care for patients.

The blog says Facebook collaborated with NYI Langone Health’s Predictive Analytics Unit and Department of Radiology to develop three machine learning (ML) models that can help doctors predict how a patient’s condition may develop. It further said this could potential help hospitals reprioritise resource for patient care. 

The three models include (a) one that predicts patient deterioration based on a single X-ray, (b) another that can predict such deterioration based on a sequence of X-rays, and (c) a third that tells doctors how much supplemental oxygen (if any) a patient might need based on a single X-ray.

The post, penned by research engineer Anuroop Sriram and Mathew Muckley, with support from research assistant Koustuv Sinha and program manager Nafissa Yakubova, says the AI-based solutions can predict such up to four days in advance. “These predictions could help doctors avoid sending at-risk patients home too soon, and help hospitals better predict demand for supplemental oxygen and other limited resources,” it says. 

Facebook took pains to clarify that these AI-based models were not products, but research solutions intended to help hospitals in the days and months to come with resource planning.

The company appears to be focussed on its India narrative in recent times. Having invested close to $5.3 billion in Reliance’s retail business, the company is now looking to deepen the association by getting Jio Mart settling down on the Whatsapp platform. A toe in the door for India’s Covid-19 challenges would definitely bring in some brownie points for Facebook in the country. 

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