What happened

General Electric (NYSE:GE) stock is generally best known for its industrial businesses building jet airplane engines and gas-fired turbines for energy production. But in this age of the coronavirus, it's COVID-19 news that is driving GE stock 3.6% higher as of 1:50 p.m. EST Monday.

So what

This morning, GE Healthcare announced it has developed the world's first X-ray artificial intelligence algorithm to assist doctors working to help critically ill COVID-19 patients with their breathing.  

GE's announcement relates to its Critical Care Suite 2.0 software system, which the company says can help clinicians "assess Endotracheal Tube (ETT) placement for intubated patients, including critical COVID-19 patients." Although it's just one of five AI "solutions" offered by the suite, this one is arguably the timeliest.

Embedded in a mobile x-ray device, it helps doctors with "automated measurements, case prioritization and quality control," and quickly shows doctors on an X-ray where an ETT has been placed, so that they can be certain it's properly positioned for ventilator support -- or know immediately if they need to reposition the tube.

Glowing green arrow climbs on a stock screen

Image source: Getty Images.

Now what

This technology could very well save lives in the midst of mounting cases of COVID-19 hospitalizations, where "seconds and minutes matter when dealing with a collapsed lung or assessing endotracheal tube positioning in a critically ill patient."

It's a "game changer," says University Hospital Cleveland Medical Center and Assistant Professor of Radiology at Case Western Reserve University Dr. Amit Gupta, who praises the technology for quickly flagging problems so that they can be remedied without waiting for a professional radiologist to examine X-ray scans.

And longer term, use of the technology in the present crisis could give doctors "an opportunity to try AI without making investments into additional IT infrastructure," encouraging them to find new uses for the technology in other situations as well, broadening market opportunities for AI use in radiology.

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