QC gov’t pilots AI-based free SMS platform for contact tracing

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The local government of Quezon City has partnered with the Philippine Medical Association and local tech firm Vireo Loadworks to roll out “BantAI Covid”, an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered free SMS platform for residents to cover Covid-19 contact tracing, triaging, telemedicine, and referral to hospitals and quarantine facilities.

Photo shows (from left) PMA president Benito P. Atienza, Vireo Loadworks president Loysa G. Orense, and PMA secretary-general Hector M. Santos

The SMS platform, which was developed by Vireo Loadworks, leverages on AI-based text messaging through mobile phones to provide contact tracing and daily monitoring of symptoms for all in-home quarantined suspected and probable Covid-19 cases.

Under the system, close contacts of confirmed Covid-19 cases who tested positive with rT-PCR test at the community-based testing center (CBT) are enrolled in BantAI Covid by the City Epidemiology & Disease Surveillance (CESU). Enrollees receive daily text messages reminding them of social distancing, hand washing, and personal protection. 

The platform also has an interactive question-and-answer function which eliminates the need for face-to-face interviews with close contacts.

“What is unique about this is that everyone with a cellphone, regardless of network and Internet connection, could use this. The services provided can help patients, their families and close contacts manage mild Covid-19 cases at home. This way, they could receive timely medical advice and help contain the spread of Covid-19. At the same time, hospitals and healthcare facilities will not be burdened for cases that could be managed at home while those in need of hospitalization can be given proper attention,” said PMA president Benito Atienza.

The BantAI Covid data analytics also provides national and local government leaders with a real-time picture of the pandemic situation, which can guide their resources allocation and management decisions.

“This platform is important to us because this will allow us to have a common system to contact trace and coordinate with patients who may have symptoms of Covid-19. It will provide a more efficient and simultaneous interaction between us and suspected Covid cases at different levels of management and isolation. This also means we can access and analyze real-time data 24/7 to countercheck initial measures we have undertaken with patients, close contacts and our health facilities,” said Quezon City mayor Joy Belmonte.

Through the SMS system, advance text notices will be sent to prior to patient arrival in hospital or quarantine facility to enable adoption of proactive measures on the part of the healthcare professional and facility.

“This is a crucial boost to our contact tracing efforts. We can also separate patients who are infected from the non-infected remotely and facilitate proper preparation for frontliners’ interaction with Covid-19 positive cases. It is a best practice for the use of technology to improve health outcomes as well as a model of partnership,” said Dr. Loysa Orense, president of Vireo Loadworks, Inc.

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