Chatbot allows Scottish patients to access Covid-19 support

Alex Smith
By Alex Smith on 10 June 2020
Chatbot allows Scottish patients to access Covid-19 support
Microsoft

People from Scotland who need help and information about Covid-19 can now access support using an online chatbot called Ave from NHS 24, the organisation that provides Scotland’s 111 service for urgent health advice out of hours.

Ave is hosted on Microsoft’s Azure platform and has been developed with the support of organisations including Cancer Central, Twilio, Capgemini and Baker Mackenzie. Microsoft partner Amido responded to the request from NHS 24 and developed a prototype bot in 24 hours. Within four days, Amido used the Microsoft Bot Framework to engineer and launch Ave.

The new chatbot is now available through the health and care information website NHS Inform, also run by NHS 24. The bot responded to more than 40,000 queries in its first 30 days using the clinically approved information from the website.

“It’s been a great experience working with such a diverse and talented group of people, all focused on delivering this option to people with questions about coronavirus,” said Louise Bennie, NHS 24’s head of digital. We’re grateful to all the teams for making this happen. Ave, named after Cancer Central’s founder Avril Chester, is a great addition to the NHS inform website.”

A similar solution has been developed by Cheshire and Chester Council, whose bot AIDA was built by Microsoft partner ICS. The bot uses Azure Cognitive Services to understand questions and produce answers from trusted sources of information on subjects ranging from Covid-19 symptoms and social care to council tax.

“Chatbot technologies like Ave can ensure that healthcare services continue to provide crucial and timely support to those who need it, helping save time, improving individual experience and crucially, assisting staff in delivering the best possible patient care in such unusual times,” said Faith la Grange, director of local and regional government at Microsoft UK. “We are incredibly grateful to healthcare staff for their continued efforts to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic and are committed to supporting them however we can.”

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