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Harnessing Artificial Intelligence for Infection Prevention: A New Approach to Hospital Hygiene and Patient Care

At the upcoming pre-congress day for the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases (ECCMID 2024), an in-depth research review will spotlight the potential of artificial intelligence (AI) as a key tool in preventing infectious disease outbreaks. This comprehensive new review, headed by Prof Richard Drew from Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital, expands on the diverse applications of AI, which include ensuring the proper use of personal protective equipment by staff and optimizing hospital operations such as medical prescription and sanitation processes.

AI is an emerging field offering immense possibilities for improving efficiency and financial savings. However, to avoid resource wastage, institutions should aim to identify specific challenges where AI can offer the most viable solutions. Prof Drew will discuss concrete examples during his presentation, including how AI could potentially improve the correct usage of face masks or streamline the transition from intravenous to oral antibiotic therapy for individual patients.

The discussion on face masks will reference the 2022 research study by Alturki et al published in Frontiers in Public Health, wherein AI facilitated mask usage monitoring. The research involved analysing over thirty studies on the use of facial recognition AI technology, concluding with AI’s commendable performance in ensuring correct mask usage. Still, discretion is needed to ensure the AI monitoring does not impose on staff privacy.

Prof Drew further delves into AI’s role in modernizing hospital sanitation. Intelligent robots aided by AI can monitor environmental and air quality in real time, directing their cleaning efforts to areas most in need. This is a significant upgrade from traditional manual cleaning methods.

Big data analytics and AI, as demonstrated by a UK research group in Nature Communications, 2024, have enabled analysis of extensive admission data to identify optimal timing for switching from IV to oral antibiotics. While it doesn’t replace human expertise, AI serves as a valuable tool that could potentially enhance antimicrobial stewardship, saving staff time, and enhancing patient care.

In closing, Prof Drew emphasizes the importance of identifying institutional challenges that AI can address. Principles of successful AI implementation range from offloading repetitive tasks to AI, such as cleaning and checking mask compliance, harnessing AI’s potential in big data analysis, and maintaining staff engagement. The goal is to ensure that the staff doesn’t feel overwhelmed or perceive AI as an intrusion. Ultimately, the crucial role of infection prevention and control (IPC) practitioners in identifying emerging problems, cultural aspects of IPC, and maintaining effective communication should remain recognized and valued.


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