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M Health Fairview implements chest X-rays to identify COVID-19

The X-ray is analyzed by an artificial intelligence algorithm, and it's already being used in Minnesota.

People concerned that they might be infected with COVID-19 may now be able to find out rapidly thanks to a technological advance made by a team of researchers at the University of Minnesota who have found a way to identify possible infection through X-rays. 

The chest X-ray process is already up and running at all 12 M Health Fairview locations in Minnesota, and plans are in place to make it available to every health care facility nationwide that uses Epic, a Wisconsin-based medical records software. 

Now, if a person arrives at any of the M Health Fairview locations with COVID-19 symptoms, a chest X-ray will be ordered, with results provided within seconds. M Health Fairview explained the process: 

"When a patient arrives in the emergency department with suspected COVID-19 symptoms, clinicians order a chest X-ray as part of standard protocol. The algorithm automatically evaluates the X-ray as soon as the image is taken. If the algorithm recognizes patterns associated with COVID-19 in the chest X-ray — within seconds — the care team can see within Epic that the patient likely has the virus."

The X-ray is evaluated by an artificial intelligence algorithm that was developed through a model that analyzed 100,000 X-rays of patients who didn't have COVID-19 and 18,000 X-rays of people who had the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 (novel coronavirus). 

In a release from M Health Fairview, Dr. Christopher Tignanelli, an assistant professor of surgery at the University of Minnesota Medical School, said the X-ray analysis "can supplement nasopharyngeal swabs and diagnostic testing, which currently face supply chain issues and slow turnaround times across the country."

Minnesota has had 100,200 confirmed cases of COVID-19 since March. Testing levels have increased in recent weeks, resulting in more confirmed cases of the disease. More cases has led to more hospitalizations, with the week ending Sept. 26 resulting in nearly 400 new admissions – the highest weekly total since Minnesota experienced significant levels of COVID-19 in late April and all of May. 

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More than 100 patients were admitted to an ICU during the week ending Sept. 26, which also is on par with the highest ICU levels the state experienced in late April and all of May. 

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