How innovation and AI provides answers to the healthcare sector

By Sophie Caswell, Head of Strategy at Brew Digital

Did you know that there are over 2 million reported health-related ‘incidents’ investigated every year in the UK? It is for this reason that The Patient Safety Learning Organisation was set up as a charity and independent voice for improving patient safety.

Yet, when the Covid-19 pandemic started, Patient Safety Learning needed to add an interactive solution to its existing hub website that was quick and easy to implement so that the charity could speak to a wider public audience and provide them with trustworthy Covid-19 guidance, as well as it’s usual patient safety information.

That is where Brew Digital stepped in. Our task was to come up with a chatbot solution that could quickly serve not only healthcare professionals but a wider audience to better understand the illness and how to deal with it on the spot.

As a charity, Patient Safety Learning focuses strongly on supporting healthcare professionals, who represent the majority of their ongoing audience. But during the pandemic, they needed to be able to share guidance and information with a much wider audience, including the general public who were flocking online in search of trustworthy information about their health and how to care for those around them.

It’s easy for many of us to feel powerless against Covid-19, especially when there is so little knowledge around the illness and so much varied information on the internet.

There are various Government and NHS guidelines, FAQ pages and decision engines that offer information and facts but none of them are providing answers to all questions in one space – including general questions around Covid-19 symptoms, social distancing guidelines or more specific concerns around how to care for a loved one or family member. Most of these websites focus on ‘healing people’ – as opposed to preventing mistakes whilst you’re doing it.

One initiative helps another

Brew Digital’s relationship with the team at Patient Safety Learning began when we were selected from 15 candidates to create their online hub. It was very clear that we held a shared passion for what the charity is trying to achieve. We felt this was something which could make a difference in the world, and we wanted to help achieve that.

So when we were subsequently approached to help develop a chatbot for the hub – having developed web-based chat solutions multiple times before to help with enquiries in the healthcare and other sectors – we felt confident that we could deliver one for Patient Safety Learning very quickly.

Chatbots are not particularly difficult to implement, it’s just a question of finding the right solution and ensuring it can be populated with the right information. Given the severity of the Covid-19 situation, our team set about investigating options and as the pandemic was escalating at quite a pace, we chose to carry out this work for PSL as part of our Pledge 1% initiative, to expedite sign-offs and get the system up and running as soon as possible.

We created the chatbot for Patient Safety Learning at no cost and inless than 3 days – it was live on the staging server 72 hours after the initial briefing.

All-in-one solution – Oscar, the chatbot

The chatbot – named Oscar – has been designed to help both patients and healthcare workers to quickly obtain key information and answers during the Coronavirus pandemic.

The Patient Safety Learning hub is primarily used by healthcare workers, but with the addition of the Oscar chatbot, the charity is targeting a much wider general public audience which is a significant change. For example, Oscar can answer questions for those who are just curious about illness or suspect that they or their closest ones are ill as well as for those who have more specific concerns.

There are several reasons why Oscar is different from other healthcare FAQ pages.

  • It looks at the patient in a holistic way, putting the patient first before the condition or diagnosis
  • It crosses every patient and every health need
  • It is completely independent
  • It’s not a diagnostic tool but it is evidence-based

The chatbot is mobile compatible, which means that services are ideal for people who want to access trustworthy guidance on the go. It also aims to provide as much information as possible via Q&A in the chatbot rather than diverting you off to other pages.

Once the basic chat functionality was created, the charity populated the bot with a detailed set of relevant contentto ensure the very best advice and content is made available as quickly as possible. The system uses artificial intelligence (AI) to source the right information, and with machine learning and natural language processing the chatbot can provide the most suitable answers in the shortest amount of time.

Looking at a bigger picture, chatbot functionality can be rapidly added to any website where it is critical for a company (such as Patient Safety Learning) to signpost users to information quickly. Not only does it save time, but it also helps users to get the information they need without trawling endless posts and pages themselves.

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