New Healthcare Virtual Assistant Helps Hospitals Schedule COVID-19 Vaccines
Healthcare conversational AI startup Hyro has begun distributing a virtual assistant to hospitals to coordinate COVID-19 vaccinations. The new VAXA voice and text-based AI builds on a similar assistant created by Hyro to answer people’s questions about the coronavirus in general back in March.
Hyro created VAXA, short for Vaccine Access Solution, after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave emergency use approvals to COVID-19 vaccines in December. According to some reports, calls to hospitals have jumped 500% since the vaccine approvals were issued. VAXA answers phone calls, text messages, and website chat inquiries on behalf of the hospital, freeing up hospital staff’s time that might otherwise be answering the same questions repeatedly. VAXA answers questions about the vaccine, eligibility, and scheduling with data from the healthcare provider as well as the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization. If connected to a clinic’s scheduling software, VAXA can even set up the appointments for patients, including confirming appointments and following up after the vaccination to check on any side effects. According to Hyro, VAXA reduces the inbound calls and requests that staff has to field by 40% and a 65% drop in people hanging up while on hold within a week of installation.
“When the pandemic struck last February, the biggest fear was that hospitals would be inundated with infected patients; but, today, with the warp-speed availability of COVID-19 vaccines, that fear has shifted from hospital ICU overload to overload of hospital switchboards,” Hyro CEO Israel Krush said in a statement. “The concern is that many who are eager to receive the vaccine will be put on hold for such a long time due to call-volume overload that they’ll hang up before getting the answers they seek or, more significantly, hang up without having scheduled a vaccination. As a result, we could see fewer people than hoped for being immunized, which might actually prolong the coronavirus pandemic.”
Hyro designs and programs custom conversational AI assistants for healthcare providers. That’s what led the Tel Aviv-based developer to share a free version focused on COVID-19 with overwhelmed hospitals and clinics earlier this year. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a surge in new demand and new platforms with similar goals to Hyro. The need to disseminate accurate, current information about the coronavirus, combined with overworked doctors and healthcare staff, meant hospitals and clinics were far quicker than usual to jump into using new technology. Orbita distributed its own interactive AI for similar purposes in March, while other hospitals used Microsoft’s customized templates. Even dental software developer Awrel created a chatbot to help triage patients during the pandemic. In Britain, meanwhile, the National Health Service is testing out plans to schedule COVID-19 vaccines by AI, starting with regular flu vaccines.
“As we enter what is hopefully the last chapter in the story of COVID-19, we are committed to conversational AI as a high-value tool for supporting healthcare organizations during this monumental undertaking,” Krush said.