Hospital staff around the world will be trained to identify people who have coronavirus using an Australian-developed educational diagnosis tool.
The technology, created by University of Sydney-affiliated start-up DetectED-X, was originally developed to improve the accuracy of breast cancer detection.
But it has been quickly modified to detect COVID-19 using lung CT scans of patients from Italy and China.
CEO and medical radiation expert Patrick Brennan said the technology would allow people interpreting lung scans to have each diagnosis reviewed for accuracy in real time.
The computer can check the scan and the diagnosis to see if the reviewer has made a mistake.
“It will help people get familiar with what they should be looking for in people who might have COVID-19,” Professor Brennan said.
The technology is being supplied free of charge to any medical facility in the world that wants it.
- The technology will help doctors diagnose patients more accurately
- It is being made available free to medical facilities around the world
“Every health worker everywhere will get it for free, so it can be accessed by people who don’t have expertise in understanding lung CT scans,” Professor Brennan said.
Helen Frazer, Adjunct Associate Professor at St Vincent’s Hospital, said the technology had proven very useful in improving diagnosis rates for breast cancer.
“What it gives you is instant feedback on your performance,” she said.
She said it could be useful in testing patients where they had a negative nose or throat swab, to pick up any early changes in their chest.
“It will be a great resource to train people, as we see people’s performance improve as they use the technology,” she said.
A spokesman for the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Radiologists said CT scans were often used in patients who were showing complications from COVID-19 or who might have conditions such as emphysema.
Professor Brennan said people with COVID-19 often had lungs with a grey and hazy appearance, with consolidated white patches at the periphery of both lungs.
“It will allow people to be trained to review these images, even if they are not an expert, which means more rapid diagnosis and treatment,” he said.
“Ultimately it will save lives.”
A study published in 2016 found radiologists using the Australian-designed diagnostic tool had “significant improvement” in their ability to accurately diagnose breast cancer.
The company only began adapting its technology to detect COVID-19 four weeks ago.
“It’s been intense work to get images from all around the world but I have never seen doctors so enthusiastic working together to get this done,” Professor Brennan said.