“If you're trying to meet patients where they are and where it's convenient for them, then the place to meet them is texting on a mobile phone. Chatbots can improve the customer experience, and improve efficiency. If most of the dialogue and the content is automated, costs will fall sharply.”
— Greg Johnsen, CEO of LifeLink
The healthcare industry is increasingly using Chatbots. Although Chatbots are just beginning to be deployed, usage is trending upwards. According to Grand View Research, the global Chatbot market will grow annually by 24% and exceed $1.2 billion over the next five years.
American patients who have actually used Chatbots have given overwhelmingly positive feedback. A CB Insights study reported that 96% of patients found interaction with a Chatbot useful. Developers are building Chatbots for mental health as well as physical health; the study found that patients with mental issues experienced a dramatic reduction in symptoms of depression by using mental health Chatbots relative to those who read a cognitive behavioral therapy book.
AI-powered Chatbots have huge potential across all points of the patient journey. Let’s look at the areas where Chatbot usage is already growing, and what advantages Chatbots provide to a healthcare facility.
The Healthcare Chatbot in a Nutshell
A medical chatbot (or healthcare chatbot) uses artificial intelligence to read, act on, and respond to messages from patients and providers. Its goal is to interact with people while providing excellent conversation and user experience. Consider a person visiting the website of a healthcare company: Within a few seconds the visitor is contacted by a friendly person in a chat box that offers help. That person is not a human being, but a chat messenger service where an algorithm answers questions instantly and precisely, and offers different kinds of support.
When a patient initiates a conversation, the Chatbot reads the patient’s message, predicts their intent, and acts upon it. The system behind the Chatbot collects data on each patient and each visit.
Artificial intelligence has developed to the point where chatbots are warm, intuitive, humanized, and customer-centric. Deprived of the human factor, they can counter-intuitively provide better quality of service: they cannot be upset, offended, or exhausted.
Medical Chatbot App: Benefits and Risks
First and foremost, Chatbots can optimize the operations of an enterprise. Routine and repetitive procedures can be delegated to algorithms, freeing human touch and attention to be concentrated in those areas that cannot do without it. For medical professionals, implementing Chatbots means a lightened workload. While coronavirus shakes the world, medical providers are under severe pressure, and some cannot cope with the numbers of patients due to scarce resources and time constraints. The critical condition of medical providers today emphasizes the need to reallocate the burden with the help of chatbot technology in healthcare.
The benefits for medical providers include:
Engaging customer service
The success of a healthcare facility is linked to 24/7 availability. Around-the-clock customer service demands responsive, consistent, and well-trained staff not prone to human error. Chatbots are perfect for this, and can be customized to a particular tone and business need.
Data accumulation and storage
Collecting patient information was once a long, manual process, prone to clerical errors that could misrecord or lose important data. And in the context of preserving human life and health, errors can have serious consequences. Chatbots make data collection precise, accurate, consistent, and error-free. The systems behind Chatbot technology can also produce reports for further analysis. This is important because insights are the gold of any business.
Chatbots can instantly recall and analyze the patient’s history to enable a highly contextual conversation, better understand the case, hear the symptoms, and make a diagnosis before the patient even comes to a facility. This makes healthcare services proactive, productive, and seamless. A Chatbot can give recommendations or connect a patient with the corresponding specialist.
Trustful and loyal relationships
Unexpected catastrophes and large workloads can result in unattended patients. A patient who does not get any medical attention is unlikely to return to that facility. With a Chatbot, this scenario is impossible. Algorithms can be perfect receptionists who treat every patient as if he or she is the only one, with undivided attention and no waiting time.
“In a healthcare context, Chatbots provide simplicity and convenience for consumers and better labor, productivity and connection to consumers for providers.”
— Brian Kalis, Managing Director of Digital Health and Innovation, Accenture Health
Healthcare Chatbot Examples
A medical facility has many services and parts beyond patient care itself. Chatbots can be used in practically every area to improve conditions for patients, and medical professionals and providers. Here’s where chatbots can do good:
This is probably the most visited section of the website by patients. To make the most of it, a medical service provider can install interactive Chatbots with accessibility features. Chatbots can help visitors find the information they want and need, such as payment options, insurance issues, working hours, and required documents. No need to waste time on making calls or exploring the website any longer.
Making an appointment becomes easy and even enjoyable. In a couple simple steps and a matter of seconds, a patient can schedule an appointment. The patient chooses a provider, a schedule slot, provides personal information and symptoms so the doctor is prepared for the patient’s visit. Patients who schedule appointments this way are automatically enrolled in text, voicemail, and email reminders and follow-ups from the Chatbot.
Assessing medical conditions
Patients can report their symptoms and get diagnosed from home or receive a remote consultation with a health facility. NLP chatbots can analyze the reported symptoms, match it to different combinations of reported symptoms, and make the ideal suggestion or give the ideal response, which is critical in this matter. The Chatbot can direct patients with a severe diagnosis to immediate attention, and direct patients with minor ailments to over-the-counter medications, saving time and money for the patient and provider.
Certain diseases require regular medical assistance, and Chatbots can serve as a bridge between the doctor and patient. A chat nurse has a full record of treatment, conditions, medication effects, etc. Patients can get medication reminders, receive news/additional info, and access their medical information and patient profile without needing to contact their doctor.
A Chatbot can be used for routine human resource tasks, such as employee hiring, onboarding, and training. AI-powered software can process applications, forward documents to staff members, and send reminders and alerts to staff upon application completion. Chatbots can also handle routine employee requests such as vacations and sick leave.
“If we can make computers more intelligent–and I want to be careful of AI hype–and understand the world and the environment better, it can make life so much better for many of us. Just as the Industrial Revolution freed up a lot of humanity from physical drudgery, I think AI has the potential to free up humanity from a lot of the mental drudgery.”
— Andrew Ng, Founder, Google Brain
For example, Babylon Health is an online medical consultation service that uses Chatbots to ask patients to verbally report their symptoms, analyze the responses using voice recognition, then recommend a relevant course of action. The system can switch to video consultation upon patient need or request. Molly, a virtual healthcare assistant embedded in Sensely, a digital healthcare platform, reviews patients' verbal reports and electronic health records via voice, text, and image recognition.
Mental Health Bot: Timely Help Arrives
Mental health issues manifest themselves in numerous ways—emotions, thoughts, behavioral patterns, and social interaction changes and perceptions. Chatbots can act as a first responder for mental health issues, providing a support line while ensuring privacy. At any place and time, Chatbots can proactively provide patients customized treatment and support 24/7.
For instance, a team of Stanford psychologists and AI experts built Woebot, a platform which uses Chatbots to provide cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT is a form of talk therapy in which the therapist uses questions and prompts to alter the way a patient thinks and transform negative attitudes into positive ones. In Woebot, the therapist is replaced by a Chatbot, which periodically asks the user how he or she is feeling throughout the day, then asks questions, prompts user responses, and offers useful videos or other content that deals with their current state.
“The coronavirus outbreak is increasing stress, anxiety, and social isolation, as well as instances of related diseases of despair, such as depression, suicide, and drug and alcohol abuse. The crisis we face today is taking its toll on the mental health community and requires timely conversations and interventions. A mental health bot can prevent fatal cases and save lives.”
— Vlad Medvedovsky, Founder and Chief Executive Officer at Proxet, custom software development solutions company.
In summary, a Chatbot is a win-win strategy for patients and healthcare providers. Once a provider decides to implement AI-powered Chatbots, it is essential to collaborate with credible digital partners. The beneficial outcomes won’t be far behind.
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