Press Trust of india

COVID-19: ICMR deploys IBM’s Watson to expedite responses from testing

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Indian Council of Medical Research has deployed IBM’s artificial intelligence tool Watson Assistant to expedite and simplify responses from testing to provide accurate and updated data on COVID-19, the IT company said on Monday.

The virtual chat assistant will give responses based on the final guidelines issued by ICMR and also filter old rules that remain valid for handling tests, sample collection, diagnostics, data entry etc related to coronavirus cases.

ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava said that it is critical to remain focused on testing, diagnosis and treatment of coronavirus patients in order to lower the growth curve.

He said with the number of on-field testing teams expanding across the nation as part of India’s COVID-19 measures, collaboration with IBM will help automate responses from the field and facilitate access to accurate and updated data on the coronavirus diagnostics and reporting.

“This will help augment our teams’ response time and allow them to concentrate on priorities like developing and updating testing and treatment protocols and guidance for COVID-19,” Bhargava said.

Coronavirus cases in the country have increased to 42,533 till date and killed 1,373 people.

“Technology continues to play a significant role in India’s fight against COVID-19, and it is crucial to evaluate and leverage the most effective solutions to support these initiatives. The deployment of IBM’s chatbot AI platform is aimed to help ICMR effectively manage the process of capturing data relating to COVID-19,” Ministry of Electronics and IT Additional Secretary Gopalakrishnan S said.

The virtual agent has been deployed on protected pages of the ICMR website that can be accessed only by authorized personnel who are involved with sample collection and testing in hospitals and diagnostic labs, the statement said.

“As India rises to meet the challenge of COVID-19, it is crucial to enable government bodies such as ICMR to utilize data and capabilities effectively for rapid detection and treatment,” IBM general manager for India and South Asia, Sandip Patel said.

Watson virtual agent will handle text based queries in Hindi and English language.

“Queries will be categorized under various headings such as governance, logistics, data entry and sharing, staff training and testing and for complex questions, pre-defined contact information of ICMR is made available. The virtual agent is also expected to help in on-boarding new data entry operators and staff of diagnostic centres, as the COVID-19 test network expands across the country,” the statement said.

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