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How chatbots help us in confronting coronavirus?


Julia Beyers

The coronavirus epidemic took us by surprise. Unfortunately, mortality from the virus continues to grow at a fairly high percentage. And until the vaccine is invented, this situation cannot be reversed. This is due to the overload of the healthcare system in many countries.

In Italy, Spain, and the United States, hospitals and medical workers were simply not ready to accept so many patients. Because of this situation, employees of medical institutions now have to make a choice between those who will receive medical care and those who won’t.

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Of course, one cannot stay away from such a problem. The information technology sector is also trying to find solutions that would help doctors deal with the problem. Today, we’ll talk about one of the most effective tools — chatbots.

First of all, let’s discuss the benefits of chatbots.

  • They are cheap. The cost of developing a simple chatbot is significantly lower than that of any full-fledged app. While its MVP development cost can be even lower;
  • Chatbots can be used by all people who have a smartphone, regardless of its computing power. Today, it’s hard to imagine that someone will have a smartphone that does not allow the use of chatbots;
  • Chatbots can work autonomously and collect data from users even offline. Once the Internet connection is on, the collected data is sent to the server;
  • Voice control is another option that greatly simplifies the data entry process. Chatbots can recognize and record voice information, which is very convenient.

You may ask: How does this help us in the fight against the virus? We are just about to move on to this.

It is no secret today that the risk of consuming fake news during this pandemic is extremely high. It is important to understand that inaccurate information not only leads to panic but also directly affects the increase in mortality among the population.

Since they are accessible 24–7, chatbots are an excellent tool that may help government authorities communicate only verified information to the users. Technology giants like Amazon, Google, and Apple have expanded the capabilities of their AI-powered systems — Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri — in order to notify users of the proven news.

In addition to voice assistants, the two main world organizations, the WHO and the CDC, have added chatbots to their sites. They alert users on the verified news too. Governments have adopted this experience and also use chatbots for this purpose.

In general, the mission of providing the maximum number of people only with verified data is one of the main tasks of governments. So far, chatbots do an excellent job in this regard. They update on the latest data, educate on the right symptoms, and offer verified information regarding treatment.

The second important area where chatbots are used is checking user symptoms. This is also an extremely common use, as there are people who want to clarify their symptoms, and doctors cannot be available around the clock.

The organization that we mentioned above, the CDC, has adopted the Microsoft medical bot and listed it on its website. Now, each visitor can use it to answer a series of questions clarifying their symptoms such as heavy breathing, hereditary diseases, previous illnesses, and so on. After receiving responses, the chatbot shares useful links for users to get more information, and advises on the steps that are to be taken next: opt for self-isolation at home, seek medical help, or, in the worst case, be urgently hospitalized.

This measure isn’t about helping people to get well. It is more about decreasing the workload of medical institutions. After all, medical workers around the world complain that people who are prone to panic often seek help after they have coughed a couple of times. And this smoothly brings us to the last, but no less important task that chatbots help to handle.

Doctors note that the vast majority of people who complain about the possible COVID-19 infection often have just a panic attack. Communication and reassurance can help to avoid such attacks. Unfortunately, we must admit that not all of us always have the opportunity to speak with someone. It doesn’t matter if these are close people, relatives, friends, or even strangers. Despite global cosmopolitanism, this problem is still real.

Chatbots can really help here. Statistics show that their use for these purposes has increased significantly. However, it is worth remembering that such measures should in no way replace real communication and professional advice. Therefore, we recommend everyone who is reading this now to not rely on chatbots exclusively when it comes to psychological assistance. In search of reassurance, better consult a doctor first. They have a lot of work right now, but they will find time for you too.

To summarize, we would like to say that chatbots really help people in overcoming several challenges at once. And the use cases are not limited to those we described above.

However, let’s be realistic, there are problems that cannot be resolved by technology. One of the most common issues is that chatbots do not always give the correct answers. This applies to symptom checking. As an example, read about the guy who talked to 8 chatbots, telling his symptoms. The variety of responses will surprise you.

This is due to the fact that no bot can know everything. AI-powered systems, which process a huge amount of data, recognize patterns, and analyze incoming information, could be the solution to this problem. Unfortunately, at the moment, there are too few of them. Simple chatbots are most often used on websites. They simply have an array of data and select information by responding to keywords.

Nevertheless, it’s nice to realize that any person who has a smartphone or a computer has a 24/7 available technology designed to help and reassure.

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