Months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, UCLA Health partnered with Loyal to plan the implementation of Guide, an AI-driven chatbot solution, to provide the help their patients needed. With 4 hospitals and 200+ clinics, UCLA Health offers a lot of options, so creating a seamless experience end-to-end and keeping it refreshed to accommodate the constantly changing Los Angeles environment could make a big difference for consumers.
Their foresight was timely, since the plan to roll out the new chatbot was set for early February 2020, about a month before the pandemic hit. The Loyal and UCLA Health teams pivoted their plans in order to fully support the Los Angeles community, and by mid-February, with Loyal’s help, UCLA Health was able to turn their chatbot into a COVID-information hub, re-routing questions and answers according to the needs of consumers during the pandemic.
“With Loyal’s help, we built a guide for consumers and for our employees, to help them find out whether or not they might have the virus and what they needed to do from there. There were a lot of unknowns, and giving everyone in the community access to true information was critical for such a large place,” said Linda Ho, Executive Director, Marketing Innovation, Technology & Operations.
“With Los Angeles at the epicenter of the U.S. COVID-19 pandemic, UCLA Health turned its chatbot into a vital, life-saving tool. The UCLA Health chatbot became and remains a crucial access point, helping us to connect with and offer support to Southern Californians. The impact of our reach has been felt across our entire health care system. We continue to update our answers through a triage process: when a new question surfaces, we send it to a panel of experts to respond and formalize an evidence-based answer. Then, our writers colloquialize the language to make it as accessible and empathetic as possible before feeding it back into our chatbot. The whole process is often completed in less than one hour.”
-excerpt from UCLA Health case study
Internal and External Health Communities
UCLA Health and Loyal teams realized the website and systems for consumers weren’t the only areas that needed attention. UCLA staff needed access to accurate and timely COVID-19 information as well, so Loyal helped the marketing technology team move the system to an intranet version.
As the pandemic changed shape over time, with different strains of the virus emerging and vaccinations becoming available, the chatbot has changed with it. The UCLA Health team set up a Command Center to vigilantly update COVID-19 questions and answers according to what’s actually being requested in online conversations, and thanks to the power of a digital presence (“front door”), they’re able to consistently optimize to ensure its outreach, validity, and truth.
eHealthcare Award: Best Overall Digital Patient Experience: Chatbot
The success of the digital experience for the UCLA health community didn’t go unnoticed. On November 4, 2021, at the 22nd annual eHealthcare Leadership Awards, the UCLA Health team was awarded Gold for “Best Overall Digital Patient Experience: Chatbot” for their COVID-19 focused work with Loyal.
The COVID-19 Vaccine
When the COVID-19 vaccine came onto the scene, the chatbot’s intent library once again had to be refreshed. Working with Loyal, the UCLA Health team tuned up the chatbot experience, successfully implementing a vaccine-focused Q&A for consumers to guide them to answers about the vaccination’s safety and efficacy, information about vaccine appointments and where and how to get the vaccine.
“The chatbot’s decision tree gets people to the answers they need, the appointments they need to make, and the follow-up information they need to know,” said Linda.
The vaccine is still top-of-mind for consumers and staff, so the language and the website have to stay current, explained Linda, “Because at this stage of the pandemic, consumers have a lot of questions about the vaccine, and giving them accurate information that allows them to make informed decisions about it, hopefully changes the face of the pandemic as we move forward.”
“The goal of the chatbot has always been to help people feel safe, seen and understood while humanizing interactions and offering reassurance.”
-excerpt from UCLA Health case study
National Vaccination Day is March 16, 2022.
National Vaccination Day is observed every year on March 16 to convey the importance of vaccination and its role in public health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “…immunization is a proven tool for controlling and eliminating life-threatening infectious diseases.” The UCLA Health teams must be 100% vaccinated against COVID-19, and encourage everyone in their community and beyond to get the facts about the COVID-19 vaccine and to get vaccinated.
What’s next for UCLA Health?
Continuing to partner with Loyal, UCLA Health will add more digital means of guiding their consumers through their healthcare journey seamlessly. Explains Linda, “We’re planning to launch an open scheduling widget so our consumers can make an appointment through Epic. The chatbot experience used to link you to the clinic and physician directory only, but now it will be a seamless process for our consumers: they’ll go straight from the chatbot to an app that allows them to schedule right there.”
Link: Vaccine Timeline. Immunize.org. Reviewed January 21, 2021.
Link: National Vaccination Day – March 16, 2022. National Today.
Link: 2021 eHealthcare Leadership Award Winners Announced. Jane Weber Brubaker. eHealthcare Awards.
Link: How California’s #1 Health System Transformed Its Chatbot to Save Lives in a Pandemic. UCLA Health.