Microsoft Offers COVID-19 Chatbot to Help Healthcare Providers Triage Patients
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other medical organizations are using Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot platform to create chatbots that can screen people who are potentially infected with the novel coronavirus. The AI aims to streamline the process of checking for COVID-19 cases while enabling medical providers to focus on those patients most in need of critical care.
The Healthcare Bot platform is customizable depending on the needs of an organization. Microsoft has built templates based on the COVID-19 pandemic that its clients can use and adjust to fit its services best. The CDC chatbot and others using the model can assess potential COVID-19 infection, answer questions about the disease and its spread, and suggest what to do in terms of getting in touch with a medical provider or managing illness at home. Several major healthcare networks have already integrated the COVID-19 elements of the chatbot, including Providence, Virginia Mason, and Novant Health, and Microsoft expects more to follow suit.
“Across all users, customized instances of Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot service are now fielding more than 1 million messages per day from members of the public who are concerned about COVID-19 infections — a number we expect to escalate quickly to meet growing needs,” Microsoft wrote in a blog post. “We hope the answers it can provide will curb anxiety that the “worried well” may experience without clear guidance and save lives by speeding the path to care for those who need it most.”
The list of AI companies developing coronavirus-related services is growing. Orbita came out with an interactive voice and text chatbot for use by healthcare organizations that can educate the public and assist in triage, and healthcare AI developer Hyro recently released a free coronavirus-focused version of its virtual assistant for websites and apps to embed. The AI in both cases serves to provide answers about the disease and help gauge whether someone should see a doctor to get tested. Microsoft’s reach and influence will likely up the number of people using AI to get answers about the coronavirus. Key to all of these AI bots is their reliance on accurate information from reputable sources. Concern about misinformation is why both Alexa and Google Assistant removed all of the voice apps related to the coronavirus from their catalogs.
AI developers are deploying creations to combat the pandemic in other ways as well. Medical enterprise platform Rx.Health is offering a digital toolkit for hospitals with bundled services, including clinical voice assistant Suki, to reduce paperwork and administrative tasks on healthcare providers. And Voca.ai, has begun an open-source project to collect samples of people’s voices to try and come up with a voice test for infection. Microsoft is not going to be the last company to apply AI chatbots to the pandemic, but it is likely to be a significant contributor.