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The information line provides automated and instant COVID-19 information via call or text
A group of Toronto professionals have created a new service phone line to provide important COVID-19 information to residents.
COVID-19 Info Line is a free phone and messaging service that launched last week. Users are able to get the latest updates on the virus by calling or texting 1-(888)-600-5722 where a bot provides automated answers.
“This started when we began seeing how the response was for the COVID-19 crisis,” said Manny Abraham, a healthcare executive who came up with the idea. “My first thought was to create a phone line where people can text and get the information they needed quickly and conveniently.”
Over the last few weeks, Telehealth Ontario has been receiving a high volume of calls due to medical inquiries related to COVID-19. Ontario Minister of Health Christine Elliott tweeted last week that additional phone lines have been added to reduce the wait times for callers. Despite the new added lines, some have tweeted that they are still experiencing longer than normal wait times.
I couldn’t get through despite trying 20+ times, and only got very vague information on self assessment follow up. Friend left message on Saturday, got a return call today. Telehealth is not working.— Neli Trevisan (@neli_trevisan) March 20, 2020
I was on hold today for 5 hours and 46 minutes……. still unable to talk to anyone— Diego (@Diego78347794) March 20, 2020
“We need to get the word out, and allow for people to use texting or phone service to reduce the load on the Telehealth lines,” said Abraham.
On March 15, Abraham pitched the idea on LinkedIn, asking for volunteer support with creating the phone line. Within a couple of days, Abraham had a group of 20 professionals from different areas of expertise who assisted in the development of this new project. On March 17, the phone line was officially live.
The COVID-19 Info Line currently has five features, where it provides:
- Latest COVID-19 case numbers for Canada
- COVID-19 self-assessment to determine the need for testing
- Information on self-isolation and monitoring
- Nearby in-person assessment centre based on postal code
- Nearby hospitals based on postal code
Abraham said the answers generated are pulled from the World Health Organization and Health Canada.
More support needed
The current project is only in its first version. Abraham and the team of volunteers are working on an updated version which will provide more services, but they say that they will need more volunteers in order to implement these changes.
“We are in need of translation services for certain languages, as we feel the communities and demographics that are in need of this service need language support,” said Abraham.
In addition to the added language support, Abraham said that the service intends to add three more features.
The first feature intends to allow users to book video consultations with medical practitioners that are available. Second, the service hopes to eventually allow users to book an appointment to nearby clinics or see the wait times of nearby hospitals. Lastly, the final component would provide users with nearby essentials delivery for medicine and groceries.
Abraham said the team of volunteers is slowly growing, but they are still actively looking for individuals who are willing to contribute to their helpful service.
The COVID-19 Info Line was designed to be an open source project, meaning that Abraham hopes other countries can take the model of his project and adjust it for free with easy access.
To learn more or volunteer for the COVID-19 Info Line, visit their website here.