Alphabet's Verily rolls out COVID screening tool for health systems

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Verily is focused on developing other healthcare tools, including expanding features and functionality to support more information sharing, symptom tracking, and workforce management, the company said. (achinthamb/Shutterstock)

Verily has rolled out a COVID-19 screening tool for health systems and hospitals to help automate frontline response to the health crisis.

Verily, Alphabet's life sciences research arm and a sister company to Google, joins a growing list of technology companies to develop COVID screening chatbots that can be embedded into hospitals' websites. 

Several healthcare organizations, including San Joaquin General Hospital, Western Wisconsin Health, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Morehouse Healthcare, are using the tool, called COVID-19 Pathfinder. The chatbot helps guide patients to relevant information on the virus and local resources, according to Verily in a blog post.

"We designed Pathfinder to be easy to implement, customizable and scalable in order to close the COVID-19 information gap as quickly as possible and enable hospitals and health systems to focus on delivering care," Vivian Lee, president, Verily Health Platforms and Vindell Washington, chief clinical officer, wrote.

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Verily is focused on developing other healthcare tools, including expanding features and functionality to support more information sharing, symptom tracking, and workforce management, Lee and Washington wrote.

The screening tool can take the form of a chat or voice bot and provides patients answers to their questions about symptoms or health risk factors. The chatbot also provides relevant information tailored to their responses, Verily said.

Verily's COVID-19 Pathfinder tool (Verily)

There is currently an overwhelming demand for actionable, up-to-date information. that is creating a significant strain on resources as nurses and staff are managing a high volume of questions and concerns from patients.

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The Pathfinder virtual agent template, co-developed with Google Cloud, enables health systems or hospitals to program chat or voice bots to automatically answer questions about COVID-19.

Working with Verily and Google Cloud, health systems can build these chat or voice bots, and easily integrate Pathfinder content across various platforms, such as web, phone, and SMS. Content for the screening tool is sourced from public guidance from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO), as well as other public health authorities, and curated and updated by Verily.

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"The Verily Pathfinder screening tool has given us the opportunity to make accurate and relevant information about COVID-19 available to our community 24/7. As the COVID-19 landscape continues to shift rapidly, tools like this enable us to adapt quickly and guide members of our community to make the best decisions about their care," said Maggie Cogbill, director of community relations at Western Wisconsin Health, said in a statement.

Verily also developed a COVID-19 risk screening website that points people to testing locations. That effort began with two San Francisco Bay Area counties and has since expanded to several regions in California as well as locations in Delaware, Idaho, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

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