The World Health Organisation has officially declared the Coronavirus a pandemia. My previous experience working as a technology consultant in public health has led me to be increasingly interested in disease and, specifically, in transmission processes and in the power of data to predict, prevent and control outbreaks, as well as in the power of conversational interfaces to collect and communicate public health information and advice.
Eva, the chatbot for health I started in 2016, was the result of this interest. The feature I am releasing today, her ability to chat about coronavirus, the latest consequence of this interest and of the declaration of the pandemia.
In 2015 I worked in Liberia as part of the ebola response team, working on tools for community health workers and epidemiologists working for the Ministry of Health. Later on I worked in Guinea, creating a tool that aimed to make health data reporting from the small clinics to the Ministry of health faster and more reliable, introducing zero reporting int he country and reducing time to report from two months to almost real time. During that time I was also part of a team working on tools to improve data management of the sleeping sickness caused by the tse-tse fly in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
After these experiences I started a project called bots4health and my first chatbot: Eva. She is made with Chatfuel and Dialogflow. She has been active since 2016 and has had conversations with users all around the world, about topics such as women’s health, mental health, nutrition, quitting smoking, Valsartan (remember that public health alert?) and now coronavirus. When I started bots4health I did it because I had discovered chatbots and I saw them as a solution to the data collection and information transmission challenges I experienced during my time in West Africa. I saw conversational interfaces as a quick way to reach individuals 1:1 and in a warm and close way but also at scale. I believed this made them perfect for public health information and messaging.
Earlier today I sent a message to 1000 random users of bots4health, asking them whether they want Eva to be able to converse about Coronavirus. Within one hour over 40% of the users had opened the message and 10% of the 1000 receivers responded to my question. With a majority of answers backing the idea I did the only thing I could do.
I have updated Eva and she will now be able to give you information about the symptoms of coronavirus, the case figures and prevention advice, all from a trustworthy source of public health information: the Coronavirus portal launched by the Johns Hopkins University. I also started to train her to answer to some frequently asked questions using this data, but I foresee there is a lot of work to do.
Help me improve Eva.
Start a conversation with her to help me train Eva’s NLP. The more conversations she has, the better she will understand and the most accurate her answers will be.