Prague’s Motol hospital introducing voicebot to answer patients’ queries

Prague’s Motol hospital, the largest healthcare facility in the country, is working on introducing a voicebot to assists patients with their phone inquiries and even manage their medical schedules. The voicebot, which will speak in 60 languages, should help take the pressure off overburdened medical staff.

Prague’s Motol hospital | Photo: © Google

Whether we like it or not, Artificial Intelligence will increasingly become part of our lives. One area where it might be useful is the chronically understaffed medical sector.

Patients calling Prague’s Motol University Hospital to ask about their planned surgery or reschedule their appointment may soon be confronted with an artificial voice.

Called Irena, the voicebot will be able to answer basic questions about the hospital’s operation, but also questions concerning patients’ health. Jan Hejtmánek is a digital automation expert who helped develop the system:

“Try calling any hospital in Bohemia. You will dial the number 28 times and still not get through. And it's not the hospital's fault, it's just that doctors are saving lives and don’t have time to answer questions about whether the hospital is open. We know that the medical staff is seriously overloaded, so why not help them by employing technology?”

As Mr. Hejtmánek explains, the voicebot should be able to give the caller basic information about the hospital’s operation, such as when and where they can come or where they can park their car.

In addition, the voicebot will be able to make or reschedule an appointment, and help chronic patients who need a prescription for their medication.

Motol’s director Miloslav Ludvík is hoping that the artificial intelligence service will lessen the burden on nurses and doctors.

Miloslav Ludvík | Photo: Michaela Danelová,  Czech Radio

“We want to improve communication with patients, who often have many questions. Artificial intelligence is able to sort them out and answer at least some of them. Our hope is to remove the communication barrier and improve overall communication with the patient.”

According to Jan Hejtmánek, introducing the voicebot should be a fairly easy task, that can be done within a couple of days. What will be more challenging will be the related administration and legal matters:

“It is nothing ground-breaking, it is a purely technological thing.  The interesting part is how to connect the technology to the hospital systems and to patients’ records; how to make it secure, so that no one can see what medicine you are taking or when you are hospitalised.

“The legal and security part is the most difficult task, because hospitals are part of the state’s critical infrastructure. We have to use technologies that are approved and go through background checks.”

The process described by Mr. Hejtmánek is likely to take several months to complete. If all goes according to plan, voicebot Irene could start answering patients’ questions in the spring of next year.