COVID-19 and Telemedicine

Coronavirus Hotlines – Fighting COVID-19 with Communication

While COVID-19 is a global pandemic, localized measures are the front-line in the fight against the epidemic.  As usual in emergency situations, cities, states and schools use the web and phone hotlines for disseminating critical information. But the novel coronavirus presents several challenges—the speed with which the situation can change from cautionary steps to active implementation of mass closings, social isolation, and quarantine, and the nature of the epidemic:

  • disproportional impact on older people, who are more inclined to use hotlines than web pages,
  • in offices and households, shared tablets, phones and computer keyboards can actually spread infection, meaning web FAQ’s can widen the spread of the virus.
  • the diversity of communication including relatively static guidelines, dynamic and geography-specific situational information, and breadth of information from general guidelines to emergency help requests.

Conversational AI can address these challenges more effectively than both conventional IVR hotlines and web pages. It’s a novel approach to fighting the novel coronavirus.

As the name implies, conversational AI enables humans to converse naturally with computers for a range of purposes, via chat, messaging, or—with the most advanced systems—voice. Think Alexa and Siri taken to the next level, carrying on conversations as a live agent would.

Vocinity’s conversational AI platform is a voice-first implementation, mimicking a live human agent via telephone, mobile app, connected car, or smart speaker. Unlike chatbots, Vocinity uses a unified NLU engine for voice and text-based conversations, optimized for the truncated verbiage typical of SMS and chat.  Rather than using different tools, or different training sets for voice, web chat, and text message, one Vocinity implementation handles them all. Importantly, Vocinity agents can support multiple languages seamlessly, with minimal extra effort. 

COVID-related use cases include:

  • Diagnostic Assistance – In over 2 million phone calls, Vocinity conversational agents have delivered results on par with human agents with better surge capacity, more consistent data capture, and lower cost.  Conversational agents are well suited for triage type services—especially voice-based ones which are more accessible and easier to use than text-based systems.  Like human agents, Vocinity agents can interact via voice, chat and messaging with the same underlying training. 
  • Information Services – The breadth of information—such as cancellations, changing travel restrictions, and frequent outbreak updates—makes conversational agents especially well suited for COVID response.  Callers get information more quickly, and with less frustration, than traditional hotlines.  Further, Vocinity conversational agents integrate with mobile apps, consumer digital assistants, and messaging apps – delivering the best aspects of voice and visual interface.
  • Call Deflection – COVID-related workplace closures impact call center staffing. This impairs service levels even with typical call volume, with severe impact as call volumes rise due to COVID. Vocinity conversational agents deflect more calls than traditional IVRs, with easier update and greater flexibility.
  • while also serving web and messaging, providing a single omni-channel point of entry that improves engagement while reducing the burden on live agents.

Each major cloud platform has a conversational AI offering, but all have important limitations. Only Google Dialogflow enables direct provisioning of telephone numbers as required for hotlines, and it doesn’t easily integrate with other information sources. Further, while relatively straightforward for technicians, these platforms all require programming support to build and maintain.  By contrast, Vocinity offers a

Hands-free Control –CDC recommendations include frequent hand washing and disinfecting surfaces that are likely to be touched by multiple hands. More effective still is voice command (eg “Alexa, turn on the living room lights”) which removes the need to touch devices at all. Above basic voice control is conversational command of more complex interactions. An example is tablets used by care centers to collect patient information. Vocinity is currently working with 2 tablet/kiosk providers on voice enabling systems to avoid physically handling tablets and touch screens.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *