Immediately following the most wonderful time of the year is the most dreaded, otherwise known as the reoccurring flu season. This particular flu season, according to reports, is looking to be a particularly bad one. Since September 2012, there have already been around 22,000 reported cases, whereas at that time last year, there were only about 850. This is 26 times more reported cases overall, and many believe it hasn't even peaked yet.
Rather than let the flu temporarily send a business to its collective sick bed, more are coming to appreciate the role of interactive voice response (IVR) systems in taking some of the starch out of a bad flu season.
Industry-leading expert Plum Voice has been offering some impressive IVR-based help for the flu. The company was also spotted providing a lot of help in the midst of the infamous H1N1 outbreak back in 2009. The IVR system works ideally by launching a message across a wide network saying that an outbreak was in progress, allowing researchers to launch data gathering efforts that spanned the next month. The IVR tools, meanwhile, could remain in place to allow those who believed they may have the flu to find out how to respond to it in their own homes.
For instance, the system would answer calls, as most IVR systems do, beginning with a choice of English or Spanish. Once the basics of language were established, the system could then provide basic information options, such as what the symptoms were, how it was spread and what to do in the event that a caller actually had the flu. In the case of the Texas Poison Center Network's IVR system, it fielded about 1,142 callers over the course of the end of April to the end of May. One-third of the callers hung up just after the message upon promptly getting the information they needed.
Services like Bharti Airtel (News - Alert) are also offering emergency alert systems of their own, allowing rapid messaging to launch in the midst of an emergency setting. The system also allows users to send messages simply reading, “safe” as needed – a message worth its weight in gold to worried families.
The idea of using mobile devices and IVRs as a means to respond to emergency situations is one that's all too timely and effective, where it works to provide value in every direction involved. For instance, in the swine flu example above, health officials could remove one-third of their calls from circulation, using an IVR system to intercept calls for simple information requests, giving those callers what they needed without having to commit a live agent to the field.
This inevitably brings about significant cost savings for health officials and time savings for those who call in. Better yet, the IVR system could operate around the clock, offering the desired information for callers right from the moment they felt that first sniffle.
Incorporating mobile devices into the equation makes it even better, as IVR is not only available anywhere, but can even be used as a notification tool. Considering how bad the flu season is shaping up in Boston this year – 700 confirmed cases so far – having the ability to not only provide information to callers but also get it out to them as needed is a valuable tool to have in play.
While having the flu is a situation best handled by bed rest and clear fluids, preventing the flu – and efficiently responding to it – may be as simple as having an IVR system in place. The sheer number of applications that can be used with an IVR make this a powerful tool that's hard to pass up.
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Edited by Allison Boccamazzo