Responding to constituents’ questions regarding their health and safety is a top priority for government agencies around the world. Drawing upon a long-term partnership with the British Columbia Ministry of Health, CGI collaborated with Google and five provincial government agencies to rapidly develop an AI-driven chatbot leveraging Google DialogFlow in just 2 weeks.

The result: The AI solution interprets and answers citizens’ questions using natural language processing (NLP) and provides in-context decision-support for health workers. The solution immediately streamlined and reduced the volume of queries on the Healthlink 811 call line by giving a single source of information through an AI channel. This solution has been extended across the British Columbia health sector, such as with an AI virtual agent that includes a live hand off to a nurse, as well as with a digital scribe that records the virtual transcript as part of the patient file.

person at desktop handling constituent chatbot questions
weeks to develop a chatbot to answer constituent and health worker questions
data requests fielded by the bot within a week after launching

Providing an immediate response

British Columbia health and government executives quickly mobilized to discuss and implement a Google Cloud AI solution to help the province best respond to the pandemic as well as ongoing health system solutions post-pandemic. As part of these discussions, leaders brought in CGI experts who are seasoned in such areas as data analytics, machine learning, artificial intelligence (AI) and epidemiology. While discussing strategies to create various data dashboards to track and predict the spread of the virus, the conversation turned to ideas for how to manage the volume of calls and long wait times for the province’s 811 health helpline. Quickly, a solution was born: Develop a chatbot that helps triage questions, directing constituents to the right services and answering pressing questions in a matter of seconds.

person holding mobile phone in both hands

The team of government and CGI experts quickly got to work, bringing together their technology and clinical data expertise. Within 7 days, they launched the chatbot to a patient advocacy group that helped train the AI by asking a wide variety of questions. Through this training, the development team used NLP to help refine the digital agent’s ability to understand questions and respond appropriately.

A week later, the COVID Digital Assistant - available at - was live to the public. After the first week, the bot had fielded thousands of data requests, providing immediate responses to concerned constituents’ inquires. It also helps answer healthcare workers’ critical questions, such as how to best put on and take off personal protective equipment. With the success of the webpage chatbot, the solution was extended shortly thereafter to the broader government website. British Columbia’s leaders are looking into future solutions, such as investigating the virtual assistant’s use on the 811 helpline.

Embracing the future with innovative services

Technological advancements have enabled governments like British Columbia to respond swiftly to the COVID-19 crisis. CGI's experts actively crafted solutions to support clients through different phases of the pandemic. One such solution involves pandemic modeling, facilitating secure data sharing between organizations. By linking genomics, disease, and COVID-19 datasets, these models aid in analyzing epidemic containment, intervention, and treatment protocols.

In the realm of digital engagement, chatbots are becoming increasingly popular as a preferred channel for citizens to provide feedback. These versatile chatbots can be deployed as voice assistants, chat widgets on webpages, via SMS texting, or even function as full virtual call center agents. This transformation allows organizations to connect with the public in ways never seen before, offering an unexpected benefit and establishing an ongoing feedback loop that supports communication teams.

person using data analytics touch screen
Person at laptop communicating with health helpline via chatbot

Moreover, chatbots play a crucial role in reaching audiences that might not rely on traditional phone or older media channels. With the added advantage of being a cost-effective, cloud-based service, they provide immediate value without requiring major infrastructure investments. Furthermore, the chatbot's versatility extends to various use cases, making it easily adaptable to new sites with minimal effort. Plans to crowd-source chatbot sessions with live agents and integrate it with the 811 IVR for surge capacity are also in the pipeline, ensuring seamless integration and enhanced service delivery.