The Washington 211 system roared like a lion into March as it saw its call activity more than double from the same month last year. 

Calls Go Up While Abandoned Call Rate Plummets
The significant increase in call volume is due to the Washington 211 network handling calls from the Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 hotline (1-800-525-0127) starting in the second week in March. Prior to taking over calls for the COVID-19 Helpline, the abandoned call rate (percentage of callers who hang up while waiting to talk to a live person) was over 50 percent. Since taking over the helpline, Washington 211 has pushed the abandoned call rate down into single digits. The lower abandoned call rate has a lot to do with Washington 211’s shared call system which allows calls to be routed to the first available live 211 call agent, regardless of where that call taker is working — whether in one of the seven call centers or, in some cases, at home. This distributed system has made it safer for call takers and allowed the system to ramp up its staff to over 100 trained call handlers.

Texting Service Has Potential For Future Alerts
Washington 211 in partnership with California 211 rolled out a COVID-19 texting service to help residents get COVID-19 information quickly via text message. Text the word “coronavirus” to 211211 and you will get a message with helpful links to guidance from the CDC COVID-19 website. You can respond with your zip code and you will receive a link to the State COVID-19 website as well as links to your local health district website. Once opted in, users can receive daily COVID-19 text updates and text alerts. This texting service creates an opportunity to reduce call volumes on the COVID-19 Helpline by sending continuously updated information via text message to Washington residents. Over 500 people have opted into this service to date. 

COVID-19 Chat Bot Allows You to Get Your COVID-19 Questions Answered Through AI
If you go on the Washington 211 website, a “COVID-19 Answers Bot” will appear along the bottom right corner of your screen. This automated chat bot responds to your questions about COVID-19 using an artificial intelligence bot that is fed by an extensive database of State and National COVID-19 information and guidance. The database is updated daily with new information in response to questions that are posed by callers. The chat bot improves over time as more questions are asked and unanswered questions can be submitted for further research. This is another way for people to bypass the traditional call system and get information directly. 

Washington 211 to Assist the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS)
Starting next week, Washington 211 will help take calls related to COVID-19 for Aging and Long Term Support Administration licensed care facilities. Family members of residents in care facilities can still call the facility directly, but if lines are busy they can be transferred to the State COVID-19 line to be assisted by a call taker trained to answer basic questions. More on this next week.

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