Welsh health board launches Covid-19 AI assistant

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Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board has launched a Welsh and English speaking virtual agent to help answer information requests about Covid-19.

The assistant, which uses IBM Watson, can help answer information requests and reduce the overload on NHS call centres.

Known as “CERi”, the virtual agent provides quick and consistent answers in a conversational tone to common questions on topics ranging from how to isolate safely and effectively, safe food preparation, to protecting yourself and family members, practical advice on managing symptoms like fatigue, advice on how to deal with anxiety and uncertainty to disinfecting your home.

Dr Phil Webb, head of value-based Healthcare at Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board, said: “Using AI and advanced natural language processing capabilities, CERi has been designed to continuously evolve and learn through use and user feedback.

“In particular we have tried to have a particular focus on the language and way her dialogue shows empathy, caring and understanding. Welsh people speak from their hearts and making sure CERi shows empathy and understanding is critical to us.”

All responses are based on information from trusted sources including Welsh Government, Public Health Wales and Public Health England, and insight from patients and members of the public who have experienced the infection.

The Welsh Ambulance Service Symptom Checker has also been integrated into the virtual agent to provide easy access for people to assess their clinical signs and symptoms. Health board employees can get quick access to vital information on the virus and hospital policies to support both themselves and patients.

Andreas Haimboeck-Tichy, director of healthcare and life sciences at IBM UK and Ireland, added: “Innovation is not just limited to the clinical environment; it is also about how the NHS and the health and care system connect with people. This is a great example of how technology can be used to empower the citizens.

“This virtual agent uses AI and natural language processing capabilities to demonstrate how technology can be employed by the Health Board to further enhance the stellar work already being carried out by our healthcare professionals.”

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board is not the only organisation to create a virtual assistant. In July, The Royal Marsden Hospital launched “Ask Maisie” to provide staff with up-to-date information on workplace policies.

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