COVID-19 and Artificial Intelligence - Another Reason for Insurers to Embrace AI
Did you know that artificial intelligence (AI) technology first sounded the alarm on COVID-19?
Over the past decade, U.S. tech firms have made significant advancements in AI and smart robots are making it far easier to automate tasks and functions across industries. AI’s ability to efficiently analyze large, diverse and unstructured data sets is now proving beneficial in the fight against COVID-19.
We examined the myriad ways AI can benefit P&C insurers in a three-part blog series that ran through February this year. Now we’re picking up where we left off, but with a focus on a timely and important application for Workers’ Compensation carriers and other P&C carriers. (A more comprehensive article will be published later in the summer.)
AI in the Fight Against COVID-19
AI is improving the speed and manner in which the world identifies, contains and combats infectious disease outbreaks. Its unparalleled ability to rapidly analyze massive amounts of unstructured data has already proven to be an early detection and warning tool for seasonal influenza.
The CDC, recognizing the potential value of AI, holds an annual competition for AI firms and academic institutions. The participants develop new AI algorithms to help identify and predict the severity of future influenza outbreaks.1 Many of these participants are now actively leveraging their technology and data sets to fight COVID-19.
AI alerts have played and continue to play a critical role in detecting and controlling future outbreaks. An algorithm developed by BlueDot, a Canadian AI firm, scoured news reports and airline ticketing data to detect the outbreak on December 31, 2019 in China.2 On the same day HealthMap, a Boston Children’s Hospital website using AI, spotted a news report of a new type of pneumonia in Wuhan, China and alerted global health officials.3 HealthMap was also the first to notify Chinese health officials that COVID-19 was expanding outside of China.
In the wake of the global pandemic, AI technologies are offering hope and promise in the fight against COVID-19. MIT’s Watson AI Lab is funding a research project for early detection of sepsis, a deadly complication of COVID-19 affecting at least 10% of COVID-19 patients.4 The project aims to develop a machine learning system to analyze white blood cells for signs of an activated immune response against sepsis. MIT is also developing an AI tool to help doctors find optimum ventilator settings for COVID-19 patients. Shorter ventilator treatments will limit lung damage and free up ventilators for other patients.
U.S. research hospitals are developing AI solutions to improve the speed and accuracy of their COVID-19 diagnoses. Mount Sinai, a leading New York research hospital, was the first in the U.S. to develop an AI solution that could quickly and accurately analyze chest scans of patients and detect early signs of COVID-19 on par with highly trained and experienced radiologists.5
The world’s leading tech firms and academic institutions are partnering with governments and hospitals to limit the spread of COVID-19 and to protect healthcare workers. Boston Dynamics and MIT developed Spot, a smart robot, to deliver medicine and monitor vital signals of COVID-19 patients.6 With the help of its leading tech firms, China created a smart field hospital in Wuhan to relieve and protect overtaxed medical professionals.7
AI technology is also accelerating vaccine development in such efforts as the collaborative work between Harvard and the Human Vaccines Project.8 Given the lengthy time to create, test and approve a COVID-19 vaccine, academic institutions and AI firms are working with scientists to identify FDA-approved drugs for repositioning to treat or contain COVID-19.9 BeneloventAI, a UK tech start-up, has already applied its drug discovery platform for this purpose and identified a drug for a COVID-19 clinical trial.10
Why It Matters to P/C Insurers
Many AI advances are aimed at protecting the health and safety of medical professionals – doctors, nurses, EMTs and all those employed in hospitals. That protection extends to patients and visitors who do not have COVID-19. As a result, hospitals and healthcare facilities that quickly embrace and implement these new AI technologies should prove to be more attractive risks for workers’ compensation and professional lines specialty carriers.
The adoption of AI and smart robots in healthcare is especially critical given the advent of workers’ compensation COVID-19 presumption statutes and executive orders designed to protect healthcare workers and other first responders on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, those legal efforts shift the burden of proof from the employee to the employer and reduce or eliminate the evidentiary requirements to establish a claim. While these developments are well-intentioned, many workers’ compensation carriers expect to see a rise in claims in states taking this action. If AI can significantly improve the safety of medical professionals, we are hopeful it can offset the rise in claims from the new COVID-19 presumption laws.
To the extent that AI can help reduce illness or its spread, the need for extensive quarantine measures will be reduced and all sectors of the economy will benefit. Main Street businesses and manufacturing facilities will be able to operate more safely and that can mean fewer business interruption and premises liability claims during future infectious disease outbreaks.
Insurers do not need a global pandemic to appreciate the economic and health value of AI. Smart robots, AI, and automation can and will continue to significantly improve workplace safety and employee health for all types of businesses even after we have tackled COVID-19. Gen Re continues to monitor these trends and looks forward to helping you understand and navigate the AI landscape.