Carle BroMenn Medical Center in Normal has launched a virtual chatbot for patients who are confused or curious about the COVID-19 vaccine and their eligibility to receive it.
Carle BroMenn spokesperson Lisa Slater said the new feature will help alleviate the recent uptick in calls and questions.
“We’re very encouraged. We’ve known for a little while now that people are hungry for information,” said Slater. “We’ve seen a sustained, high-call volume on our vaccine line for several weeks now.”
Lesly Whitlow, Carle’s vice president of ambulatory services, said the hope is the information empowers patients to gain a better understanding of when the vaccine may be available to them.
“It’s reassuring to see such an eager response from our community to get vaccinated,” said Whitlow.
Since Friday, the chatbot has seen more than 1,000 visitors. Slater said Carle BroMenn is pleased it can provide this service.
“A lot of the uncertainty, I think, that people have is just, ‘How does this all work and then why would I want to use this tool? How is this going to help me?’” said Slater. “Really, the chatbot is going to determine at what phase you are eligible to receive the vaccine.”
How does the bot figure it all out?
“Carle is leveraging a Microsoft product and it was developed in cooperation with the CDC and matches their phased-distribution criteria with a series of self-directed questions,” said Slater.
Slater said phase-distribution criteria really varies county by county simply due to population size and supply.
“The bot really is a tool for a person to use to find out what phase the vaccine will be available to me or should be available to me,” said Slater. “Then it will give you an indication of where to go to receive the vaccine.”
An assessment of eligibility begins immediately after opening the chat bot. The bot assesses vaccine eligibility based on age, underlying health conditions and occupation.
Slater said the bot does not store information.
“It’s not keeping track of you or your answers, so it is just doing an immediate assessment as soon as you open it,” said Slater. “Then it will link to your public health department’s website and social media to give you the updated information they have about clinics.”
Carle also provides information about side effects and procedure on its website, where the chatbot also can be found.
“If you are just interested in knowing more information about COVID vaccination processes, the potential side effects, general FAQ information we have a COVID-19 resource page also,” said Slater. “That would be the best place to get those types of questions answered.”
There's no subscription fee to listen or read our stories. Everyone can access this essential public service thanks to community support. Donate now, and help fund your public media.