The globe has been hit by the pandemic. The coronavirus has been spreading around the world, infecting millions of people and causing already more than 264,000 deaths.
To curb the spread of the virus, many governments have put up stringent measures, including shutting down businesses and keeping people away from each other. While everyone is stuck at home, they can only leverage digital health platforms to help them get through these tough times.
And one digital tool that is invaluable in creating awareness and providing diagnostic assistance to curb the pandemic are healthcare chatbots.
Table of Contents:
1. Chatbots Educate
With the growing spread of the disease, there comes a surge of misinformation and diverse conspiracy theories, which could potentially cause the pandemic curve to keep rising. It has, therefore, become necessary to leverage digital tools that disseminate authoritative healthcare information to people across the globe. And healthcare chatbots are filling this gap perfectly.
Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) partnered with Ratuken Viber, a messaging app, to develop an interactive chatbot that can provide accurate information about COVID-19 in multiple languages. With this conversational AI, WHO can reach up to 1 billion people across the globe in their native languages via mobile devices at any time of the day.
Once a user subscribes to the Viber chatbot, they receive notifications about the latest news and information about the disease directly from the WHO. The chatbot also allows users to test their knowledge of the coronavirus through interactive quizzes. Through FAQs, this conversational bot may also help users understand the nature and course of the illness.
The Indian government launched a WhatsApp-based interactive chatbot called MyGov Corona Helpdesk that provides verified information and news about the pandemic to users in India.
Furthermore, conversational chatbots allow for curated information. Information can be customized to the needs of the user, which is unlikely when searching for COVID-19 data online via search engines. What’s more, information generated by chatbots takes into account users’ locations, so they can access only information useful to them.
2. Chatbots Help with Diagnosing
It is impossible for healthcare professionals to reach and screen everyone who may have symptoms of the infection; therefore, leveraging AI bots could make the screening process fast and efficient.
Conversational chatbots can be trained on large datasets including the symptoms, mode of transmission, natural course, prognostic factors, and treatment of the coronavirus infection. Bots can then pull info from this data to generate automated responses to users’ questions. A bright example is a chatbot that recognizes the intent of a user’s input about their symptoms, using its machine learning capabilities, and then identifies users who are likely to have the infection and provides instructions or escalates these findings to health professionals.
That provides an easy way to reach potentially infected people and reduce the spread of the infection.
The challenge here for software developers is to keep training chatbots on COVID-19-related verified updates and research data. As researchers uncover new symptom patterns, these details need to be integrated into the ML training data to enable a bot to make an accurate assessment of a user’s symptoms at any given time.
Recently, Google Cloud launched an AI chatbot called Rapid Response Virtual Agent Program to provide information to users and answer their questions about coronavirus symptoms. Google has also expanded this opportunity for tech companies to allow them to use its open-source framework to develop AI chatbots.
One of the companies that used the opportunity was Verily. They launched the Pathfinder, a virtual agent template for hospitals and health systems to track people at risk of contracting the disease. The template allows healthcare professionals to develop voice or chatbots that screen users with a round of typical questions about their age, travel history, recent contacts, smoking history, medical conditions, and current symptoms.
3. Chatbots in Treatment
In the wake of stay-at-home orders issued in many countries and the cancellation of elective procedures and consultations, users and healthcare professionals can meet only in a virtual office.
From those who have a coronavirus symptom scare to those who have other complaints, AI-driven chatbots may become part of hospitals’ plans to meet patients’ needs during the lockdown. Many health professionals have taken to telemedicine to consult with their patients, allay fears, and provide prescriptions.
Furthermore, social distancing and loss of loved ones have taken a toll on people’s mental health. With psychiatry-oriented chatbots, people can interact with a virtual mental health ‘professional’ to get some relief. These chatbots are trained on massive data and include natural language processing capabilities to understand users’ concerns and provide appropriate advice.
As the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, we can leverage AI tools and chatbots to increase awareness and disseminate information about the virus, and also boost screening efficiency to identify potentially infected people on time. While everything is on lockdown, only technologies can reach all corners of the world in a split second, assisting healthcare professionals and medical experts in limiting the spread of the virus and saving as many lives as possible.
If you’re interested in building a chatbot – check out our comprehensive piece about chatbot development or schedule a call, and we’ll be happy to answer all you chatbot questions.
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