• November 16, 2020
  • By Leonard Klie Editor, Speech Technology and CRM magazines
  • FYI

Voicebots Outperformed Humans in COVID Detection

Article Featured Image

As the initial wave of COVID-19 began to ramp up, the Colombian government wanted to be able to reach out to millions of citizens within hours and detect potential cases to save as many lives as possible.

Officials researched the latest artificial intelligence-powered technology and contacted tech company VOIQ, a voicebot provider based in Redwood City, Calif.

Leveraging VOIQ’s artificial intelligence-powered voice software to have conversations with citizens over the phone, Colombia became the first country globally to use voicebots at this scale to diagnose millions of individuals within a matter of hours vs. weeks or months with a solely human-powered team.

What’s more, the voicebots outperformed humans 8-to-1.

As COVID-19 cases began increasing rapidly during the first few weeks of March, the Colombian government introduced a national quarantine and quickly put together a technical team to contain the virus by designing interactive COVID-19 heat maps that trace cases across the population.

Most countries, including the United States, were struggling to put together human-powered teams to scale the outreach needed to populate these heat maps. “We have cases of highly concentrated regions with over 1 million inhabitants that will be in grave situations unless we deploy a massive outreach tool to trace this virus,” said Andrés González Díaz, former governor of Cundinamarca and ambassador to the Organization of American States (OAS).

The forward-thinking team in Colombia, headed by Nicolás García Bustos, governor of Cundinamarca, began researching solutions to multiply their efforts and found VOIQ. The team decided to harness VOIQ’s sophisticated AI Voice platform for its massive outreach initiative under which it would call more than 10 million citizens in the region of Cundinamarca, one of the COVID hotspots.

These human-sounding voicebots had personalized conversations with each citizen and asked about symptoms, pre-existing conditions, and possible viral exposure. The voicebots were optimized with regional accents and used neutral, straightforward language that all Colombians could easily understand. The answers given by each individual were automatically captured, and potential high-risk cases were sent to the Colombian team for further action.

These adjustments, combined with several other key campaign modifications, created unprecedented campaign results. Whereas the average response rate for an outreach campaign run by humans is 7 percent, this campaign had an average response rate of 75 percent—reaching roughly 10 times more people to diagnose potential COVID-19 cases.

The Colombian government also discovered that variables such as time of day, attempt frequency, tone, and messaging affected its ability to reach the largest number of people; it was able to make adjustments to increase conversation rates.

AI voicebots proved to be a beacon of hope in battling the pandemic. They have allowed the Colombian government to speak with hundreds of thousands of citizens, trace thousands of potential cases, and save thousands of lives in the process.

“Colombia is a testament to how technology can help us improve our understanding of how COVID-19 spreads. With a population of 10 million, Cundinamarca is a trailblazer for leveraging the latest AI Voice technology to reach its citizens and enable fast and efficient COVID-19 detection,” said García Bustos in a statement.

Due to the success of the Colombian government’s COVID-19 voicebot, several global organizations are now interested in leveraging this type of AI Voice technology to lead their large, mission-critical outreach efforts.

But Colombia isn’t the only country that is looking at voice technology to address COVID-19 and other medical conditions. Researchers throughout Europe, Asia, and North and South America, in academic and corporate settings alike, are engaged in projects to determine whether speech could be used to diagnose all sorts of ailments. Conditions being considered include respiratory diseases like chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD), Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, heart disease, and neurological and mental disorders like autism, attention deficit disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Some of the top research is being performed at prestigious universities like Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Harvard, and Cambridge. Government, industry, and the medical community are also heavily involved in the research, which is progressing at a rapid pace.

SpeechTek Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues