British Tech Agency Prototypes Coronavirus Quiz Voice App for NHS
Tech agency FX Digital has built a voice app prototype designed to augment the United Kingdom’s National Health Service hotline during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The voice app connects the NHS’ coronavirus website with a voice assistant to handle questions about the disease and help assess if the user should seek medical attention.
The NHS 111 service offers a free phone connection to the health service where people can ask questions and decide whether to make a doctor’s appointment. Since the pandemic began, there’s been an unsurprising spike in calls to the people answering the calls. NHS 111 also encompasses a website full of medical information and answers to people’s questions, including a section specifically focused on the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. What FX Digital suggests is putting the questionnaire that helps determine if someone is infected on the website into audio form, accessible through a voice assistant on a smart speaker or another device.
Users connected to the voice app through Amazon Alexa or a similar voice assistant would be taken through the questions on the website. According to FX Digital, the responses will ideally be in a yes or no format as much as possible, but the app will apply Amazon’s machine learning model so that people can respond conversationally about, for instance, the date they started experiencing symptoms. Like the website, an indication of dangerous symptoms prompts the voice app to urge the user to call for emergency services. Depending on the final design of the voice app, it may be able to call for an ambulance directly.
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The voice app was built on spec by FX Digital and requires approval from the NHS to get certified for Alexa or Google Assistant. The company is hoping to get a grant for the voice app, but is not building it for profit, Marwan wrote. At a minimum, Marwan wrote that he hopes the idea encourages others to come up with projects to improve how the UK is handling the pandemic.
“As Voice is a hands-free solution, a Voice App of this kind could potentially help the elderly and vulnerable members of society access important advice if they suspect they have the symptoms of Coronavirus,” FX Digital Ramsey Marwan explained in a blog post. Further, it can ease the strain on a service struggling to manage soaring demand.”
There are reasons to think the NHS may be interested in the concept. The British government is already using a WhatsApp chatbot to share information about the pandemic. Launched when the country’s lockdown began, the chatbot offers facts and disproves myths about the disease and what people should be doing during the pandemic based on data from the NHS and World Health Organization. It’s similar to the one set up by the government of India. Extending those AI platforms to voice could further serve to help keep people informed during the pandemic while reducing the calls coming into the NHS that take up people’s time and energy.
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