Rise of the Chatbots Amid COVID-19

June 18, 2020

Chatbots get a bad reputation when many of us would rather talk to a real person. But when phones and staff are overwhelmed, like other artificial intelligence tools playing an important role amid COVID-19, chatbots can provide useful services.

Alleviating Health System Strain

Microsoft launched a Healthcare Bot for health companies such as Walgreens and public health systems. Individuals can report their symptoms to the bot, and the bot provides assessment including what the illness might be, how to manage their symptoms and recommendations to contact their doctor or visit a local test center if needed. This type of tool helps makes phone lines available and allows healthcare providers to attend to other duties. Chatbots can also collect location data on individuals who call in with symptoms similar to COVID-19. This allows public health systems to identify potential hot spots of the disease.

For centers testing over 1,000 patients a day, calling each patient about their test results can occupy nurses who are needed elsewhere. Chatbots can deliver test results instead and provide patients with further steps to take. With chatbots handling phone calls, nurses can be utilized for further testing, allowing the center to see more patients. Chatbots can also make calls as soon as test results are in, quickly delivering patient information.

Providing Accurate Information

The World Health Organization released a chatbot to fight misinformation about COVID-19. Through an app, users can get information on how to protect themselves, proper mask usage, travel recommendations and myth-busting facts. The chatbot is available in multiple languages with the goal of reaching as many people as possible.

The National University Health System launched a chatbot to aid medical staff. Through the app, doctors and nurses can get information on medications, hospital procedures, on-duty staff and COVID-19 updates. With the strain of the pandemic, resources are stretched and doctors and nurses may find themselves in need of additional information: the app ensures information is easily accessible and timely.

Improving Mental Health

Chatbots can provide a sense of assurance for concerned individuals by providing quick and easy assessments. For patients seeking therapy, chatbots can provide simple conversation or guide users in cognitive-behavioral techniques, meditation and breathing yoga. Mental health and depression have spiked amid COVID-19, and the mental health system is as strained as traditional health offices. Chatbots can help improve the mood, depression, anxiety, motivation and confidence levels of patients or refer them to helplines or practitioners if they need more focused assistance.

The chatbot market is expected to be worth $1.5 billion by 2025 (a growth of 24.3%).