How a Customized AI Chatbot Screens Coronavirus Patients at Providence St. Joseph Health

Providence St. Joseph Health has adapted its existing chatbot to help people assess their potential infection by the novel coronavirus. The healthcare provider is one of several organizations leveraging Microsoft’s Healthcare Bot platform to do so, which is an especially crucial measure in the six western states, including its home base in Washington State, where the COVID-19 pandemic has been especially pervasive.

Grace AI

Providence first debuted its Grace chatbot more than two years ago. The chatbot is built from both in-house and contracted technology to interact with patients and determine if their symptoms warrant a doctor’s visit. The AI assesses what the user is experiencing and suggests whether it merits a visit to the office or a telehealth discussion with a doctor by video through the Providence Express Care Virtual Visits system.

The revamped version of the chatbot performs the same role, but with a focus on the coronavirus. Users pick which symptoms they may be experiencing and any factors that may heighten the probability of infection, such as if they’ve interacted with people who may have the virus or have traveled to countries where more people have tested positive for the coronavirus. Depending on the answers, the chatbot suggests whether it is worth making a virtual or in-person appointment. The AI also includes answers to common questions about the coronavirus, how it spreads, and what can be done to limit the chance of infection.

The first version of the coronavirus chatbot was up three days after Providence received its first patient with the disease, and the organization has said it is developing new versions of the chatbot to handle more conversational language in the future. The ongoing goal of the chatbot is to limit the influx of people to Providence’s hospitals who do not have the virus, reserving resources, and the time of medical professionals for those who genuinely need it. The chatbot is drawing more than a few potential patients. There are more than 150,000 messages sent a day between the AI and users, with tens of thousands of sessions since it launched almost three weeks ago.

Custom Health AI

Providence is customizing Microsoft’s platform, but the value of AI-powered chatbots during the COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to gain recognition. Orbita offers an interactive voice and text chatbot for use by healthcare organizations to help determine who needs in-person care while educating the public, and Hyro has released a free version of its virtual assistant that for the same purpose. India’s government has even built one, using its Ministry of Health database to power a chatbot on WhatsApp. Voice assistants are jumping on the informational aspect as well. Apple made a guide on Siri for people to self-assess their potential coronavirus symptoms, while both Alexa and Google Assistant removed all non-official coronavirus voice apps.


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