A SMALL Swindon company has come up with a lifesaving new way of quickly checking for coronavirus symptoms in hospital patients.

The 10-strong team at Teleglobal Consulting Ltd in Westlea is developing an artificial intelligence-based solution that aims to be more accurate than humans at detecting the presence and severity of the deadly respiratory disease by scanning chest X-rays.

A pilot scheme at hospitals in India and possibly Italy over the next few weeks will set out to prove that the AI works in practice as well as it has in its promising early stages.

TCL boss Rahul Tarar claims that radiologists’ predictions based on chest X-rays are around 73 per cent accurate, which the AI is already achieving, and TCL is aiming to boost this to 90 per cent in three months’ time.

The program analysed thousands of anonymous X-rays from American hospitals to learn what to look out for and, if all goes well, the clever bit of kit could be used by the NHS in hospitals across the UK.

Mr Tarar hopes this will help give short-staffed radiologists more time to spend on other patients and work while the AI helps analyse and prioritise X-rays for them.

He said: “It’s like putting a radiologist’s brain into an AI by training it on millions of X-ray images then checking its results against humans’ predictions to see if they agree.

“We had done something similar with tuberculosis before the pandemic hit and we then paused all our other projects to work on one that could detect Covid-19.

“I’ve got a great team, they have been working really hard on this and made great progress.

“When we shared the outcome of our training with specialists from NHS Southwest England, they showed confidence and a keen interest in the approach of the solution. Now it needs to be seamlessly integrated into a radiologists’ toolkit.

“They can’t rely on this program completely but it could cut their workload significantly, which is great because there is a shortfall of radiologists in the UK right now. It’s a very good tool and could be applied to other illnesses.

“It’s still early days and we’re only just gone through the first phase of testing but if successful, the UK will be the first to deploy this sort of solution.

“TCL is a very small company and we are risking a lot and aiming high by doing this but not many businesses are carrying out this sort of research.”

TCL applied to the Swindon-based UK Research and Innovation hub for funding to enhance the prototype to a fully-functional product which will help hospitals diagnose Covid-19 in a quicker and accurate way and optimise the use of key resources like ventilators.

If successful, the firm will have access to more data to further fine-tune the software.

The pilot scheme in foreign hospitals is being carried out in partnership with Clearmedi Healthcare at Medipasss.R.L. Italy, Kos Spa, Italy and Clearview Healthcare India.

Managing director Dr Shashi Baliyan said: “Patient-centric technology interventions are at the core of our healthcare operations and we always look forward to use technology to enhance quality of patient care.

“We have lab-tested TCL’s AI solution for Covid-19 infections in a controlled healthcare set-up, which has achieved significant and promising outcomes in terms of accuracy.

“This provided feasible opportunities to optimise already scarce resources such as radiologists and ventilators. As the next step, we will introduce the scalable pilot program implementing the AI solution across facilities for prospective studies which will strengthen our endeavour to prepare for a new normal post-pandemic.”