Thanks to developments in science and technology, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, big data and other technologies have been used to establish smart healthcare systems that helps societies respond more effectively to disease outbreaks. The spread of novel coronavirus starting in late 2019 has revealed how not only traditional medicine but also Smart MedTech applications can be instrumental on the anti-epidemic front lines.
To give updates on the development of Smart MedTech and how it shines during the fight against COVID-19, SEMI invited Dr. Pei-Yuan Lee, Honorary Superintendent of Show Chwan Memorial Hospital, to share with MSIG (MEMS & Sensors Industry Group) and Flex-Tech members how the international community and Taiwan are bringing their best in Smart MedTech to the table and how their collective efforts are helping tackle COVID-19 challenges.
Taiwan’s COVID-19 rapid screening reagents and antibody testing help curb coronavirus transmissions
Taiwan’s medical community has demonstrated its prowess in responding to the COVID-19 outbreak. Using its nucleic acid extraction reagent, Taiwan Advanced Nanotech Inc. tested 128 specimens from passengers aboard the SuperStar Aquarius cruise ship in only eight hours in early February. Taiwan’s leading research institute Academia Sinica successfully synthesized the first group of monoclonal antibodies capable of recognizing the new coronavirus protein on March 8, enabling testing to be completed in 15 minutes. The College of Medicine of National Taiwan University announced on March 27 that its 30-second screening device had helped identify asymptomatic carriers. The devices detect COVID-19 in people with no symptoms if they have pulmonary infiltration and edema.
It took only 14 days for Academia Sinica to successfully synthesized the first group of monoclonal antibodies capable of recognizing the new coronavirus protein.
On April 22, three biomedical companies in Taiwan launched a COVID-19 test that produces results from samples of patient mucus in less than 10 minutes to greatly enhance testing speed. Once the test method is approved by the Taiwan government, it will take Taiwan’s medical strategy against COVID-19 to the next level.
Artificial Intelligence: the key to upgrading traditional healthcare practices
AI is a key enabler of the transition from traditional medical practice to Smart MedTech. To help fight the COVID-19 outbreak, a National Cheng Kung University medical team developed a 30-minute coronavirus testing procedure that uses AI to read pulmonary X-ray images and automate medical records. Taiwan AI Labs leveraged AI to simulate how drug molecules combine with viruses to reduce research time by three to four years. AI diagnostic technology from the Alibaba DAMO Academy (Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook) and Alibaba Cloud interprets CT images of COVID-19 patients with 96 percent accuracy in 20 seconds. AI-powered algorithms improve diagnostic test accuracy, allowing clinicians to quickly analyze scans of pulmonary lesions and quantify the severity of lung damage.
Startups have also joined the fight against COVID-19. Taiwan's Internet of Things (IoT) startup iWEECARE invented the world's smallest smart thermometer patch. Heroic-Faith Medical Science launched a device that uses IoT and AI to monitor lung sounds. With Smart MedTech expected to be fertile ground for future venture investments, enterprises must find their niches in establishing new technologies in a much more systemic way.
Taiwan startup Health-Faith Medical Science developed a respiratory diagnostics device that uses IoT and AI technology to monitor chest sounds in real time.
Anti-epidemic technology to help fulfill smart medtech vision
Many AI and big data technologies previously deployed in hospitals and healthcare systems are helping regions around the world speed their pandemic response. The United States and China have started to develop facial mask recognition systems powered by AI, while a team in the Department of Bioinformatics and Medical Engineering at Asia University has devised a facial recognition system combining IoT and AI technology with infrared thermal imaging cameras. At Johns Hopkins University, the Center for Systems Science and Engineering is using AI to create big data models that track global cases, people and traffic flow, and other variables for real-time data analysis that enables epidemiologists to more accurately predict COVID-19 transmission paths. Graphen, Inc., a New York-based provider of next-generation AI platforms, launched the world's first AI COVID-19 genetic evolutionary path analysis systems to gauge the virus’s transmission route and accelerate pandemic response.
Both the United States and China are also using robots and drones to improve epidemic research and patient treatment. For the first confirmed case in the United States, robots were used to assist with medical care. In China, robots facilitate deliveries of disinfectants to makeshift hospitals built to expand the nation’s capacity to treat COVID-19 patients. While Taiwan’s robots are traditionally used for hospitality, transportation and disinfection purposes, future robotics research and development will focus more on medical applications that shift more work from medical staff to technology.
With abundant technological resources and expertise, Taiwan can join hands with the rest of the world to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.
Emerging technologies are pointing the way toward a new paradigm for healthcare community. Biotech, artificial intelligence, and robotics have given rise to new applications that increase virus screening accuracy and efficiency. This growing wave of technological defenses against the pandemic will become a long-term force for stability and strength in healthcare systems across the world.
To get involved in SEMI Taiwan Smart MedTech Community, please contact Helen Chen, Outreach Manager, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Irene Huang and Winnie Chang are marketing and public relations specialists at SEMI Taiwan.