According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, in just one week (March 16–24), the number of Americans who view the coronavirus as a major threat to public health spiked by nearly 20%, from 47% to 66% — a figure that is growing exponentially.
It would seem that the incredible speed in which the virus is spreading is matched only by the velocity of the concern it’s generating.
We wanted to gauge how the current situation is affecting the way patients are engaging with our virtual assistants. Using a wide range of parameters, we drilled down into our conversational data to examine how prevalent COVID-19 has become on the digital front-lines as well as the most popular services and information patients are looking for to cope with it.
Here’s what we found:
As social distancing is put into practice across all 50 states, telehealth, labeled as an emerging technology up until recently, is becoming the predominant way in which Americans seek medical care. This surge of activity on the ground is being echoed by decision-makers in Washington, D.C., where the Trump administration recently announced an unprecedented expansion of telehealth services for senior citizens, and Congress waived restrictions for coronavirus screening.
Consequently, 45.5% of all COVID-19 related conversations with one of our virtual assistants revolved around telemedicine:
The vacuum created by the disrupted patient-doctor relationship is fertile ground for the spread of fake news and misinformation. The proliferation of false and misleading coronavirus related updates has grown so severe that Big Tech and government agencies have created exclusive task forces to fight it. As a result, patients are turning to their healthcare providers whom they consider to be a reliable and trustworthy source of pure facts. This is exceptionally well-exemplified in the chart below, in which patients are clearly prioritizing information relating to the virus.
Out of all COVID-19 related engagments, almost 80% of users interacting with this virtual assistant chose the “coronavirus updates” option to get more information about the disease:
Beyond identifying overall trends, we also took a deeper look at what patients are actually asking about. Out of the many conversations we perused, one theme became clear, there is still a great deal of confusion over how to adjust to this new climate and minimize the risk of infection. Questions such as:
“Is it safe to go shopping?”
“How far away do we have to be from people?”
are underscoring the unfortunate fact that crucial announcements and instructions have yet to be properly conveyed to the general public.
Another aspect of healthcare that a high volume of patients are now struggling with is how to receive non-COVID-19-related care.
“Do I need to reschedule my appointment for tomorrow?”
is a question that kept popping up in dozens of conversations, as patients are becoming accustomed to waves of cancelations and postponements in all areas of daily life. The future, it would seem, is just as beclouded as today, and some people are preemptively asking questions in anticipation of new regulations that may be enforced:
“I am pregnant and due in April. Can my husband come into the delivery room with me?”
As we quickly witnessed the ballooning urgency of a COVID-19-related solution for the patients our clients serve, we knew we needed to develop the right tool to help.
Last week, we launched our complimentary COVID-19 Virtual Assistant that can field coronavirus-related questions and triage symptoms from concerned citizens, and alleviate some of the unprecedented stress on healthcare first-line support centers.
At the time of writing, our assistant has been deployed by some of the country’s leading healthcare enterprises, such as Mercy Health and Montefiore Health System. We are already collecting critical data for those organizations and are pleased to discover that the majority of patients engaging with the assistant are taking advantage of our COVID-19 risk self-assessment tool. But more on that in our next blog post.
Stay tuned, stay safe!
Product Manager at Hyro