A team led by the University of Oxford is looking to develop potential algorithms which could help diagnose Covid-19 pneumonia.

GE Healthcare is also working with the National Consortium of Intelligent Medical Imaging (NCIMI) in the UK on the programme, which also aims to predict which patients will develop severe respiratory distress, a key cause of mortality in patients who develop Covid-19 pneumonia, and which patients might develop longer term lung function problems.

At present, clinicians cannot easily predict which patients who test positive for Covid-19 will deteriorate and require hospital admission for oxygen and possible ventilation.

It is also not clear which patients will suffer long-term consequences from the lung damage.

The consortium aims to develop algorithms incorporating data from thousands of patients medical imaging, laboratory and clinical observations to provide both a quicker diagnosis and a prediction of how a patient may progress and recover.

Professor Fergus Gleeson, consultant radiologist and professor of radiology at the University of Oxford, said: “It would be extremely valuable to predict at a relatively early stage in the disease which patients will do well, which are at risk of imminent deterioration and should be admitted to ICU as they will need more intensive support, and which are at higher risk of delayed deterioration and need to be actively monitored.

“These distinctions would allow hospital resources to be targeted to those that will need them whilst in hospital and following discharge.”

Currently, some patients admitted to hospital do not see a worsening of their symptoms, while others who appear stable can deteriorate rapidly.

Identification of those patients at highest risk of deterioration and long-term lung function problems may help physicians and caregivers to accelerate intensive support. It may also allow those with lower risk to be monitored in a suitably safe environment, potentially including the patient’s home.

GE Healthcare and NCIMI aim to develop tools to help in the management of these Covid-19 patients from triage to acute monitoring, interventions, to discharge and those requiring follow-up after recovery.

The teams will have access to data from NCIMI NHS partner hospitals as well as working with the National Covid-19 Chest Imaging Database (NCCID) led by NHSX in England and the British Society of Thoracic Imaging.

Kieran Murphy, CEO GE Healthcare, added: “If we can rapidly develop and implement these tests, they could help determine which patients are likely to develop respiratory distress and longer-term complications, and which patients are likely to remain stable. Doctors could use such tools to triage patients to ensure they are quickly placed in the right care setting and this may help to improve outcomes.”