Embracing innovative tech in healthcare

Community-Acquired Pneumonia and COVID-19 Artificial Intelligence Predictive Engine (CAPE)
Trained using more than 3,000 chest x-ray lung images and 200,000 data points including lab results and clinical history as a basis, CAPE is a predictive tool used to determine the likelihood of whether a patient has mild or severe pneumonia // Credit: Changi General Hospital

When COVID-19 struck, it was all hands-on deck for hospitals and healthcare workers around the world. To alleviate the anticipated pressure on manpower and resources, SingHealth institutions sprung into action to innovate.

“We knew that we had to leverage new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics, to develop tools that can be swiftly deployed and enable teams to find new ways to combat the virus and manage the situation efficiently,” said Dr Charlene Liew, who is the Director of Innovation for the SingHealth Duke-NUS Radiological Sciences Academic Clinical Programme.

Harnessing AI

A team from Changi General Hospital (CGH), inclusive of Dr Liew, developed an AI-driven tool that analyses x-ray images to predict whether a patient is likely to develop severe pneumonia, one of the main consequences of a severe COVID-19 infection. This system, called Community-Acquired Pneumonia and COVID-19 Artificial Intelligence Predictive Engine (CAPE), alerts clinicians to patients who are at risk of becoming critically ill. It was developed in just four months with the help of the Integrated Health Information System team.

“One main advantage of using AI as a predictive tool is that the risk of patients requiring critical care can be calculated almost instantaneously. Doctors at the emergency department and wards can receive an early warning for possible clinical deterioration and prescribe the appropriate measures to improve patient outcomes,” said Dr Liew.

Preparing for shortages by overcoming challenges

Should patients deteriorate, one of the key pieces of equipment that helps to save their lives is the ventilator. With supplies of ventilators drying up as the number of severely ill COVID-19 patients around the world soared, clinician innovators from CGH, Singapore General Hospital, KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) and Sengkang General Hospital collaborated with SingHealth Medical Technology Office and industry partners to create a ventilator prototype, the SG-Inspire (SinGapore Invasive/non-invasive support for effective respiration), to anticipate the need for more ventilators in Singapore.

And with lockdowns in many countries, the SG-Inspire team had to be extra creative in sourcing for individual components. Using a supply-to-design approach and relying on only readily available and suitable components, SG-Inspire could be mass produced without any supply issues and would be five-fold cheaper than conventional ventilators.

“A compelling unmet need is always the basis for any useful innovation. This fostered a sense of mission in the team which, together with professionalism and proactiveness, were key drivers of our team’s efforts. We worked round the clock to bring this to fruition,” said Associate Professor Derrick Chan, Director of KK Research Centre, KKH, and Deputy Director, SingHealth Medical Technology Office.

While these innovations were spurred on by a pandemic, they are more than a flash in the pan. The CAPE team is working on integrating data from the electronic medical records system to further improve the accuracy, while the SG-Inspire team is turning to other countries to see whether its innovative ventilator could alleviate pressing needs for equipment elsewhere.

Adapted from Singapore Health