ICMR deploys IBM's Watson to expedite responses from Covid testing

ICMR Director General Balram Bhargava said that it is critical to remain focused on testing, diagnosis and treatment of coronavirus patients in order to lower the growth curve.

BENGALURU: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) will use IBM’s artificial intelligence based tool Watson Assistant to respond to specific Covid-19 queries of frontline workers and data entry operators.

ICMR has collaborated with IBM to implement a Watson virtual agent for addressing questions from various testing and diagnostic facilities across the country.

The queries may be related to nature and process of data to be captured by test labs, how to record inventory of test kits and reagents, process of reporting to various Government agencies and references to the latest guidance, in addition to general questions related to the pandemic, said IBM in a press release.


The Watson virtual agent is trained to understand and respond to common queries in English and Hindi based on the latest guidelines. The company said the queries will be categorized under various headings such as Governance, Logistics, Data entry and sharing, Staff Training & Testing and for complex questions, pre-defined contact information of ICMR is made available.

The virtual agent is also expected to help in on-boarding new data entry operators and staff of diagnostic centres, as the COVID-19 test network expands across the country.

“It is critical to remain focused on testing, diagnosis and treatment in order to lower the growth curve. With the number of on-field testing teams expanding across the nation as part of India’s Covid-19 measures, this collaboration with IBM will help automate responses from the field and facilitate access to accurate and updated data on Covid-19 diagnostics and reporting,” said Balram Bhargava, Director General, ICMR.
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