AI Chatbots Join the Frontline of COVID-19 Triage: Conversational Interfaces Speed Care

April 4, 2020

// By Dave Wieneke //

Dave Wieneke is the healthcare innovation director at PKWe are living in a world already changed. Unlike even 60 days ago, we face a new imperative to embrace social distancing to save lives and preserve clinical capacity. If history has taught us anything, it’s that times of crisis drive innovation. Crisis helps overcome the inertia of the status quo. New solutions emerge, and are embraced as proven new patterns of care.

We’ve seen this happen in the expanded use of telemedicine. In response to COVID-19, states have instituted payment parity for distance medicine, and state medical boards have revised licensure and credentialing requirements to allow telemedicine across jurisdictions. The new frontier of online triage, testing, and treatment is unfolding as we speak. These new practices will persist beyond the crisis that helped prove them.

The same is true of the growing use of AI-backed chatbots. With each day, more health systems are deploying these conversational interfaces, turning the CDC’s COVID-19 guidelines into interactive experiences that help provide a desperately needed buffer between the sick and frontline hospital workers. Symptom checking can begin at a level of self-administered “forward triage,” which can help health systems match resources to patient needs.

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