Irish AI bot can check if you need Covid-19 testing

A digital pharmacy service called Healthwave has developed a Carebot digital assistant that helps indicate if you need to be tested for Covid-19.

Healthwave’s CareBot is a virtual assistant that uses AI and natural language processing to process prescription orders and other health related queries. 

The CareBot also features an online assessment tool that will indicate whether the user is potentially eligible for COVID-19 testing thereby potentially reducing calls to GPs.

“Turning to technology to manage surges in demand for healthcare was the obvious solution to me”

The technology is being made freely available by Healthwave to GPs nationwide who may find it helpful in managing increased call volumes due to COVID-19 test requests.

Built by Healthwave founder, pharmacist and coder, Shane O’Sullivan, the CareBot was initially created to assist the Healthwave pharmacy team in managing the increased volume of orders and enquiries due to Covid-19.

In its first four days of operation, 80pc of calls and texts to the pharmacy were transitioned through the CareBot, freeing up significant time which allowed pharmacists to talk directly with patients needing urgent care, to manage prescriptions and ensure medication was delivered to patients as quickly as possible.

Automation during a crisis

Dark haired young man in navy jacket and white shirt.

Healthwave founder Shane O’Sullivan. Image: Conor McCabe Photography

In response to a surge in queries, Healthwave pharmacists added a Covid-19 symptom assessment feature to CareBot so patients can check if they are eligible for testing.

The new Covid-19 feature could also be implemented in GP surgeries that are looking to prioritise phone callers.

The Covid-19 symptom assessment was designed using the latest assessment pathway issued by the HPSC on 25/03/2020 and will continually be updated to reflect the most recent government testing criteria.

The easy to use tool gives users an opportunity to assess online whether they will qualify for testing under the new guidelines and what next steps they need to take.

“Turning to technology to manage surges in demand for healthcare was the obvious solution to me,” O’Sullivan explained.

“We’ve seen it work so well in other industries. Myself and our engineer spent a weekend coding CareBot, a virtual, pharmacist-trained, assistant and within a week it became indispensable at a time when Healthwave was receiving almost two and a half times more enquiries than usual, and transitioning over 10,000 patients from in-store to our delivery service.”

O’Sullivan added: “CareBot has relieved a lot of pressure on the pharmacy team since we went live, prioritising patients in most need. We think it can help others too, which is why we are delighted to make the CareBot technology available to interested GP’s in Ireland free of charge.

“We can assist with getting the CareBot technology up and running on their websites and will continue to add functionality to the CareBot over the coming days and weeks and welcome suggestions on how to improve the service. We also believe the HSE could look at integrating technology like CareBot into their Healthlink referral pathways to streamline the testing process,” O’Sullivan concluded.

Written by John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 2 April, 2020