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New chatbot helps doctors monitor health of migrant workers in dorms in real time, intervene when needed

SINGAPORE — A chatbot powered with artificial intelligence (AI) technology has been put to use at six migrant worker dormitories in Singapore, to allow doctors to monitor residents’ health in real time and intervene quickly when necessary.

Sungei Tengah Lodge, one of the six dormitories whose residents are under the medical care of the National University Health System.

Sungei Tengah Lodge, one of the six dormitories whose residents are under the medical care of the National University Health System.

SINGAPORE — A chatbot powered with artificial intelligence (AI) technology has been put to use at six migrant worker dormitories in Singapore, to allow doctors to monitor residents’ health in real time and intervene quickly when necessary. 

The platform, named SGDormBot, was developed by the National University Health System (NUHS) in partnership with AI healthcare startup Bot MD.

In a statement on Wednesday (June 10), NUHS said that even though isolation facilities for migrant workers have been expanded, there are significant numbers of migrant workers diagnosed or suspected to have Covid-19 who continue to be housed in dormitories, where on-site medical coverage is available for only for certain hours of a day.

So, NUHS worked with Bot MD to develop SGDormBot for use at the six dormitories under its medical care, namely Sungei Tengah Lodge, Tuas South Dormitory, Acacia Lodge, Kian Teck Hostel, Kian Teck Dormitory and SCM Tuas Lodge.

Using widely available social messaging applications such as WhatsApp, the bot reminds infected residents in the dorms to monitor their temperature, heart rate and oxygen levels, using their native language. 

The bot also sends NUHS clinicians an instant SMS alert whenever there are abnormal vital signs reported, allowing them to intervene quickly through telehealth consultations.

Dr Stephanie Ko, an associate consultant at the Division of Advanced Internal Medicine in the National University Hospital (NUH), volunteered at dormitory medical posts to test and improve the bot.

She said that when the team met and spoke with patients in the dormitories, they realised that while the migrant workers are avid users of mobile phones and chat apps, they handle certain interactions differently. 

“For example, many of them were not familiar with scanning QR codes or filling in online forms. Using these insights, we adapted the SGDormBot interface such that it was intuitive, useful and easy for them to use,” she said.

SGDormBot was first piloted in late April in Tuas South Dormitory. Migrant workers who tested positive for Covid-19 were asked to add SGDormBot on WhatsApp and the chat assistant would prompt for the user’s language preference. 

Residents could then use the platform to self-report their vital signs, and were sent twice daily reminders in their native language.

Since its launch, more than 90 per cent of infected residents in NUHS-managed dormitories have logged their vital signs daily. Nearly 500 alerts have been triggered and close to 100 teleconsultations have been held as a result, with the aid of layman volunteer translators. 

Of these teleconsultations, more than 20 residents have been identified for earlier medical review and 11 cases were escalated to hospitals for further treatment.

Even during the initial testing of the bot, word about it spread among workers.

Last month, Dr Ko and Dr Jen Wei Ying, an associate consultant at the National University Cancer Institute who also helped to develop the bot, received an SMS alerting them to a migrant worker who reported symptoms of chest pain.

Although the platform had not been in use yet in his dormitory, the worker had heard about the initiative from a friend in a different dormitory who had taken part in the initial testing phase. 

Dr Ko alerted the dormitory ground personnel, who found the worker unwell with an abnormally fast heart rate. Within minutes, they activated an ambulance to transfer him to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases for further evaluation.

Beyond this trial, Dr Jen said that the technology has the potential to help other patients who do not have readily available access to healthcare or who are suffering from chronic diseases.

“For the long term, we hope that this can be developed into a scalable telemedicine solution for remote monitoring of chronic diseases, and we are building our monitoring dashboard with this long-term view in mind.” 

Related topics

SGDormBot AI Migrant Workers dormitories Covid-19 coronavirus

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