For the past several months, healthcare experts, including IPsoft’s Global Lead of Healthcare & Life Sciences Dr. Vincent Grasso, have focused on finding ways for AI to help stop the spread of COVID-19. From very early on, clinicians and specialists recognized conversational AI’s potential to provide relief to doctors and providers overwhelmed with new cases. Rather than hire or import practitioners or nurses, conversational AI was viewed as a method to remotely screen and potentially manage care for patients affected by the virus.

Shortly thereafter, IPsoft built its own Digital Employee powered by Amelia so users can screen for potential indicators and risk factors of the novel COVID-19 coronavirus, in an attempt to help authorities “flatten the curve” of confirmed infections around the country.

Now through a partnership with IPsoft and NTT DATA, digital health company Sharecare has launched a new free, clinically-validated COVID-19 consultant in AskMD, Sharecare’s world-renowned symptom checker, as part of an ecosystem of COVID-19 patient screening and care services. The COVID-19 consultant is available for use by thousands of Sharecare’s provider partners. It’s an important example of three companies coming together to quickly develop a solution to address an urgent crisis, and benefit the common good.

The project came together very quickly, in only about a week’s time. Sharecare dramatically expanded the Amelia COVID-19 Assistant’s reach largely due to Amelia’s ability to be quickly trained on Sharecare’s own virus-related clinical data and information, and rapidly deployed. By combining Sharecare’s solution with Amelia’s cognitive interface, coronavirus information is easy to access by any user in an anonymized manner.

Built to offer true-to-life conversation, Amelia enables the consultant in AskMD to assess a user’s risk of COVID-19 infection and offer accurate, on-demand information, alleviating the pressure on medical providers tackling the global pandemic. To extend the partnership even further, any of Sharecare’s provider partners in the US can embed or link to the service through their own websites for their patients and constituencies.

Once a user interacts with Amelia, the solution provides a results summary screen, which can be customized – at the hosting organization’s discretion – to direct people to additional resources, such as state COVID-19 hotlines and telemedicine services if necessary. Sharecare is also willing to work directly with registered healthcare providers to set up the COVID-19 AskMD screener and provide first-level implementation support.

What’s Next for AI and Healthcare?

Once the world contains the coronavirus, society will be able to draw crucial lessons from the experience. For the AI industry in particular, the pandemic has confirmed several pre-existing assumptions. First, AI can assist companies with providing quality employee experiences, regardless of where they’re located. Secondarily, and more importantly, AI can have a direct impact on helping people proactively navigate their own healthcare, ultimately leading to better care regimens and programs.

The Amelia COVID-19 Assistant does not treat patients, prescribe medications, or recommend treatments, but does provide a more human approach to health education and research than previous digital formats, particularly during stay-at-home mandates or when hospitals are at capacity.

One should never rely solely on AI for critical healthcare issues. As a complement to medical professionals, AI can be transformative, but it should not serve as a substitute. In-person, doctor-to-patient communication plays the most important role in positive medical outcomes. Nonetheless, Sharecare’s solution can provide hospitals and providers with a critical outlet to communicate and interact with thousands of patients, helping everyone to navigate this difficult time.

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