A new chatbot has been launched to provide additional routes for Scottish patients to access Covid-19 support and information.
NHS 24, which already runs the 111 helplines in the UK, developed the chatbot alongside six other business and technology organisations.
The new software will be available via the health and care information website NHS inform, also run by NHS 24.
The bot, called Ave, has been launched to provide accurate and up-to-date facts about coronavirus, as well as help and support them if they have symptoms or need specific services such as mental health.
Ave has already proven to be popular, having reportedly responded to more than 40,000 queries in its first 30 days.
Head of Digital at NHS 24, Louise Bennie, commented on the platform: “It’s been a great experience working with such a diverse and talented group of people, all focused on delivering this option to people with questions about coronavirus.
“We’re grateful to all the teams for making this happen. Ave, named after Cancer Central’s founder Avril Chester, is a great addition to the NHS inform website.”
Information on how to access NHS Inform and where Ave is hosted is displayed at the Scottish First Minister’s daily briefings on Coronavirus as part of the Scottish government’s “Digital First” strategy.
As well as the new chatbot, NHS 24 has developed a live web chat service that allows users to speak to a trained contact centre employee about their query. Users directed to the web chat if Ave cannot answer a complex question.
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Faith la Grange, Director of Local and Regional Government at Microsoft UK, whose Azure Cloud platform Ave runs on, said: “Microsoft is proud to play a part in supporting NHS 24 at this time.
“Chatbot technologies like Ave can ensure that healthcare services continue to provide crucial and timely support to those who need it, helping save time, improving the individual experience and crucially, assisting staff in delivering the best possible patient care in such unusual times.
“We are incredibly grateful to healthcare staff for their continued efforts to tackle the Coronavirus pandemic and are committed to supporting them however best we can.”
Users can find Ave, which helped their employees respond to a surge in demand from people wanting information on coronavirus, on the NHS inform website.