Thinking outside the ‘bot’: New feature helps patients find COVID-19 answers

January 15, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources,

Visitors to the main Michigan Medicine website will notice something new that will help them find the answers to some of their most pressing questions — a chat bot.

The bot is an automated feature that can provide answers to the most common COVID-19-related inquiries. It pops up in the bottom left corner of the screen when you visit any Michigan Medicine ( page.

Driven by artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms, the bot will learn over time and get better at answering questions patients may have.

“Currently, most patients coming to our website are looking for information related to COVID-19,” said Lisa Burkhart, web project manager in the Department of Communication. “So we introduced the chat bot to help our patients find this information more quickly, improve the patient experience and enhance efficiency by reducing the need to contact our call centers.”

Moving forward

The bot was implemented by members of the Marketing and Web Center teams within the Michigan Medicine Department of Communication. The teams worked with an outside vendor to provide the tool.

There is no human behind the technology — instead the bot is simply programmed to answer questions regarding topics related to COVID-19 disease, the COVID-19 vaccine, options for receiving care during the pandemic (including virtual care), visitor restrictions, parking and testing.

But as the organization looks to the future, the service eventually will do much more.

“In the future, the chat bot will be enhanced to cover a wider variety of topics including billing, how to request an appointment or even find a doctor,” Burkhart said.

Since it was introduced last week, the bot has already answered more than 7,000 patient questions.

“We’re excited that we’ve been able to introduce this new tool and improve the patient experience for anyone who visits our home page,” Burkhart said. “We’re always looking to innovate and utilize the latest technology to help the organization move forward — and this is just one way of doing that.”