Hello, doctor? The French National Institute for Health and Medical Research (Inserm) launches AlloCovid, a telephone service to help and locate Covid-19 patients and predict where the virus could reappear, as revealed by France Inter on Monday 27 April.
The development of the StopCovid contact tracing application is becoming more complicated, with the government excluding the initiative of Apple and Google to facilitate its compatibility with the iPhone, in particular.
AlloCovid is therefore presented as an alternative to the controversial contact tracing to track the spread of the coronavirus.
In concrete terms, it is a telephone platform provided by virtual assistants and intended for patients over the age of 15 who are experiencing symptoms such as fever or cough.
By calling 0 806 800 540 (at the price of a normal call), a robot answers you and submits a questionnaire. The call lasts 3 minutes.
Depending on your answers, the telephone book gives you advice, if you need to call on 15 for example, or simply go through a GP, or remain confined to your home.
It is therefore this system based on artificial intelligence and its three-minute calls that are supposed to make it possible to identify the places where the virus could restart after the deconfinement by locating the said calls.
Des chercheurs de l'Inserm et de l'Université de Paris lancent aujourd’hui un numéro national, AlloCOVID, destiné à "informer et assurer un suivi en temps réel de l'épidémie grâce à l'intelligence artificielle", sept jours sur sept et 24 heures sur 24 #AFP pic.twitter.com/5ebxeS2Aj6
— Agence France-Presse (@afpfr) April 27, 2020
“A World First” As An Alternative To Contact Tracing
“The main interest is to be able to say live, in such and such a commune, beware, there are cases that are increasing rapidly,” Xavier Jouven, a cardiologist and epidemiologist at the Georges Pompidou Hospital in Paris, explains to France Inter Xavier Jouven.
This localization is supposed to make it possible to identify outbreaks of resurgence and to immediately be able to solve the problems at the commune level to avoid having to reconfine everyone. “It can be a very effective weapon,” adds the specialist.
In order to locate patients, AlloCovid will use the postal code that users must provide at the time of the call, which will not be retained. “It’s completely anonymous,” the doctor told France Inter. But it does record where there are symptomatic people in France.”
In accordance with the recommendations of the CNIL, this project has been accompanied by data protection specialists and “the visualization and analysis of the data collected will be carried out through collaboration between Inserm and Voyageurs SNCF”, a subsidiary of the SNCF.
One thousand virtual telephone assistants would already be ready to receive simultaneous calls from this Monday 27 April. They will be able to answer a thousand simultaneous calls from private individuals from Monday morning.
The Inserm team behind the system says it is ready to double or even triple the number of bots to answer more calls.
Is the postal code given at the time of the call checked? Does the questionnaire provide a reliable diagnosis? Doesn’t the unlimited number of calls per user distort the data?
It is still too early to present this device as an alternative to contact tracing, as it has not yet been deployed in France and is due to be debated in the National Assembly on 28 April.