The Västra Götaland region used the boost.ai platform to build and deploy a virtual agent to answer questions about Covid-19 in just six days
Sweden’s approach to tackling the coronavirus pandemic is unique amongst its Nordic neighbors. It is the only country in Northern Europe to, so far, avoid imposing any lockdown measures, making it critically important for state and local governments to be able to quickly and accurately disseminate information related to public health and safety.
Officials from the Västra Götaland region recognized this need early on in the pandemic when they began to see a dramatic increase in the number of citizens contacting the customer service desk with questions related specifically to the coronavirus. Västra Götaland is the country’s second-largest region in terms of population and is home to over 1.7 million people spread across 49 municipalities.
At the beginning of the pandemic, residents were often subjected to extended waiting times of up to several hours when calling the contact center. This was inefficient and impractical and, while officials didn’t yet know the extent to which the situation would escalate, it was clear that a solution would be required in order to manage any further potential increases in traffic.
Västra Götaland’s digitization strategy included finding unique uses for automation to improve communication channels with its residents. For this, they turned to Atea and boost.ai to implement a conversational AI-powered virtual agent designed to help answer questions about the coronavirus for residents located both inside and outside the region.
By automating the bulk of common Covid-related questions, the virtual agent would help alleviate pressure on the 1177 healthcare service telephone number and provided 24/7 access to the latest state and local guidelines.
With timing being a critical factor, officials at Västra Götaland selected boost.ai’s user-friendly conversational AI platform because of its capacity to develop and deploy powerful AI chatbots in a matter of days thanks to pre-built content and deep vertical expertise. Working closely with a team of local healthcare staff, boost.ai and its partner Atea were able to successfully build and launch the virtual agent in just six working days.
Powered by boost.ai’s proprietary Natural Language Understanding (NLU) the virtual agent was able to automate upwards of 800 conversations per day, giving citizens the information they were looking for and freeing up human agents to assist residents with inquiries beyond Covid-19.
A key factor that Västra Götaland officials pointed to in their adoption of the boost.ai platform was that it does not require IT expertise to operate. The simple, no-code conversation builder makes it easy to create content for the virtual agent and it allowed for medical professionals, such as nurses and midwives, to take an active role in helping to update the bot’s knowledge as more information about the coronavirus became available.
"I see our chatbot as a great future opportunity to influence healthcare from a qualitative perspective."
- Hans van den Brink, Innovation Manager, Västra Götaland
Each response that the virtual agent is trained on was quality controlled to ensure that it adhered to national healthcare guidelines. Information was updated regularly so that residents could access the most up to date information 24/7 and without the need to call the contact center.
While the virtual agent was developed and launched in Västra Götaland, its popularity as a source of important information related to the pandemic meant that its use and adoption extended outside of the region. People all over the country were able to chat with the bot and update themselves on the latest coronavirus measures - irrespective of whether they were a resident of Västra Götaland - creating genuine value for all Swedish citizens.
After the initial success of the corona-bot in March 2020, Västra Götaland officials decided to expand the scope of the project to answer more than just Covid-related questions. In June 2020, a second virtual agent with a wider administrative focus was launched on the boost.ai platform. This virtual agent is able to assist residents with more general healthcare questions such as getting info on their nearest clinic or how to schedule an appointment.
The motivation behind this expansion was not centered around driving efficiency from an economic perspective. Instead, Västra Götaland’s Innovation Manager, Hans van den Brink, neatly sums up the advantages that conversational AI brings to the region and society in general: “I see our chatbot as a great future opportunity to influence healthcare from a qualitative perspective. By doing something as simple as automating the process of reminding patients to take their medicine, we move beyond the economic benefits and actually begin to improve people’s health and society as a whole.”