Can AI Detect COVID?; Telepsychiatry; and Early Cancer Tests

Can AI Detect COVID-19 by Voice?

New research suggests that artificial intelligence (AI) may be able to diagnose patients with COVID-19 by voice.

AI speech analysis has already shown that it can help detect other diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, posttraumatic stress disorder, dementia, and heart disease.

At least half a dozen studies have looked at AI COVID-19 detection, and researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands report that an AI model was accurate 89% of the time compared with an average of 56% for various lateral flow tests.

False positives: One downside in the study was that AI resulted in false positives 17% of the time compared with 1% of the time for lateral flow tests.

Good news: AI tests can be run through an inexpensive and simple app, so a false positive would simply require further tests at little to no cost.

Telepsychiatry Promises to Meet Demand

Telepsychiatry has emerged as an alternative treatment platform to meet the overwhelming demand for service.

That has opened the door for companies such as Skypiatrist, founded in 2016; Cerebral, started in January 2020 and now the largest online psychiatric service in the country; and Done, which offers treatment specifically for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.

Many private practice psychiatrists do not participate with insurance panels, so online companies that accept insurance may add value, convenience, and access.

Quality scrutiny: Telepsychiatry companies have come under scrutiny for quality of care and prescribing practices, including the overprescribing of stimulants.

Prescription issues: Some pharmacy chains have refused to fill prescriptions for controlled medications from online telehealth providers. To that end, Cerebral no longer prescribes controlled substances. 

Moonshot Sets Early Cancer Detection Goal

President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot program is part of an effort to develop early detection blood tests for more kinds of cancer.

Early cancer screening today can detect only five types of cancer: prostate, breast, lung, cervical, and colon. The Cancer Moonshot program prioritizes research to greatly expand that number.

The Multicancer Early Detection Consortium is a nonprofit, public-private organization that provides insight and guidance into the development of screening tests.

Promising research: Biden’s speech about the Cancer Moonshot program came on September 12, a day after a study reported an experimental test’s ability to detect dozens of kinds of cancer.

New challenges: More research into multicancer early-detection assays is necessary to figure out how to navigate a thicket of new challenges, including a high false-positive rate.

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