Technicians at Upstate and Microsoft together built an online assessment tool, known as a chatbot, to answer questions about the coronavirus.
The chatbot asks users about their symptoms and travel history. Based on responses, the chatbot assesses the person’s risk of having COVID-19 and offers a variety of next steps.
A major benefit of the assessment tool is its ability to quickly assist people without requiring a visit to a doctor’s office or emergency department. “Hospitals are carefully managing capacity issues and need to be available to those who are ill and need treatment,” says Upstate University Hospital Chief Executive Officer Robert Corona, DO. “While users may ultimately need to be in contact with a physician, we can help them make that determination without having them show up at an office when it may not be necessary.”
Further enhancements to the assessment tool are expected to be rolled out that will allow Upstate to follow up with those individuals who were recommended for testing using bar-code technology.
The concept for the patient-tracking element of the assessment tool is based on work Corona and Sam Carello, director of biomedical informatics, undertook during 9/11 to manage an anticipated surge of patients to be transferred to Syracuse from New York City. The objective of the system is to triage and track patients, which have now been shown by South Korea and other countries to be an important tool in managing the spread of the virus.
In the first week that the chatbot was operational, Corona reported 33,542 unique users. That number climbed to more than 60,000 by April 17.
The chatbot can be found by going to this web page, then clicking on the purple box (it looks like the one below) that says “Upstate coronavirus assessment tool.”
The New York State Department of Health offers a COVID-19 hotline at 888-364-3065.