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Early detection of COVID-19 is an ongoing area of research that can help with triage, monitoring and general health assessment of potential patients and may reduce operational strain on hospitals that cope with the coronavirus pandemic. Different machine learning techniques have been used in the literature to detect potential cases of coronavirus using routine clinical data (blood tests, and vital signs measurements). Data breaches and information leakage when using these models can bring reputational damage and cause legal issues for hospitals. In spite of this, protecting healthcare models against leakage of potentially sensitive information is an understudied research area. In this study, two machine learning techniques that aim to predict a patient’s COVID-19 status are examined. Using adversarial training, robust deep learning architectures are explored with the aim to protect attributes related to demographic information about the patients. The two models examined in this work are intended to preserve sensitive information against adversarial attacks and information leakage. In a series of experiments using datasets from the Oxford University Hospitals (OUH), Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (BH), University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB), and Portsmouth Hospitals University NHS Trust (PUH), two neural networks are trained and evaluated. These networks predict PCR test results using information from basic laboratory blood tests, and vital signs collected from a patient upon arrival to the hospital. The level of privacy each one of the models can provide is assessed and the efficacy and robustness of the proposed architectures are compared with a relevant baseline. One of the main contributions in this work is the particular focus on the development of effective COVID19 detection models with built-in mechanisms in order to selectively protect sensitive attributes against adversarial attacks. The results on hold-out test set and external validation confirmed that there was no impact on the generalisibility of the model using adversarial learning.


Journal article


IEEE Journal of Biomedical and Health Informatics



Publication Date