A Dublin-based pharmacist who holds a programming qualification has developed bot technology to deal with the huge demand for pharmacy and GP services due to Covid-19.
Shane O'Sullivan of pharmacy Healthwave has premises in Dundrum, Dublin, but the business model is based on the delivery of drugs to patients.
In recent weeks, there has been a significant increase in demand for medicine and he developed a piece of technology called CareBot, which went live on the Heathwave website and by text a week ago.
In its first few days, 80pc of calls and texts transitioned to the new CareBot, freeing up a huge amount of time for pharmacists to get prescriptions processed for delivery.
"I took a break from pharmacy back in 2012 and I was studying programming on a part-time basis while working in pharmacy," he said. During the year off, he developed a GAA iPhone app.
During the year, he also spent a lot of time looking at margins and the cost of drugs, and decided to open a pharmacy which focused on lower-cost medicine deliveries.
The business has always had a strong emphasis on technology and employs developers. "We build all our own stuff, which allows us to move quickly at times like this," he said. Healthwave has 20,000 customers.
"Around 10 days ago, it became clear we were under pressure volume-wise, so we needed to do something," said O'Sullivan. "We'd been looking at the idea of using AI and bots for some time, but this gave us the impetus to do it.
"The CareBot gives us a way of letting the majority of people just place an order or get answers to their query in a self-serve type of way. Not everyone needs to speak with someone and that takes a lot of pressure off."
He and his team have also developed a bot which answers questions about Covid-19 and steps that need to be taken based on a HSE flow chart. "You're trying to filter out people who don't need to speak with a doctor," he said.
This Covid-19 assessment technology is being offered to GPs by Healthwave.