Skeptical about the robot takeover?
You’re not alone.
But healthcare chatbots have been on the scene for a long time, and the healthcare industry is projected to see a significant increase in market share within the artificial intelligence sector in the next decade.
(Source: Grand View Research)
These figures aren’t surprising. With their success in both providing patient care and facilitating healthcare administration, it looks like chatbots will be sticking around.
(Not sure what counts as a chatbot? Here’s a primer.)
But is the chatbot revolution benign? Can they replace a human healthcare practitioner?
The answer is no. But what healthcare chatbots can do is free up valuable time for medical personnel and administration staff to focus on the most complex and pressing healthcare needs. They can also provide an efficient and more cost-effective way for healthcare providers to interact with patients at scale.
This means that they are incredibly useful in healthcare, transforming the delivery of care and services to be more efficient, effective, and convenient for both patients and healthcare providers.
Here are five ways the healthcare industry is already using chatbots to maximize their efficiency and boost standards of patient care.
1. Automating healthcare processes
Chatbots can be used to automate healthcare processes and smooth out workflow, reducing manual labor and freeing up time for medical staff to focus on more complex tasks and procedures.
From scheduling appointments to collecting patient information, chatbots can help streamline the process of providing care and services—something that’s especially valuable during healthcare surges.
Since a chatbot is available at all hours, users are able to access medical services or information when it’s most convenient for them, reducing the burden on staff.
Tars offers clinics and diagnostic centers a smoother alternative to the traditional contact form, collecting patient information for healthcare facilities through their chatbots.
Not only can customers book through the chatbot, but they can also ask questions about the tests that will be conducted and get answers in real time. It also offers the option to book periodic checkups.
2. Enhancing customer service
Healthcare chatbots can help healthcare providers respond quickly to customer inquiries, improving customer service and patient satisfaction.
It’s not just about booking appointments. Chatbots can also provide healthcare advice about common ailments or share resources such as educational materials and further information about other healthcare services.
Some patients may also find healthcare professionals to be intimidating to talk to or have difficulty coming into the clinic in person. For these patients, chatbots can provide a non-threatening and convenient way to access a healthcare service.
A healthcare chatbot can also help patients with health insurance claims and billing—something that can often be a source of frustration and confusion for healthcare consumers. And unlike a human, a chatbot can process vast amounts of data in a short period of time in order to provide the best outcomes for the patient.
Example: Babylon Health
Babylon Health is an app company partnered with the UK’s NHS that provides a quick symptom checker, allowing users to get information about treatment and services available to them at any time.
Patients can also quickly refer to their electronic medical records, securely stored in the app. The app also helps assess their general health with its quick health checker and book medical appointments. They can even attend these appointments via video call within two hours of booking.
3. Facilitating effective communication
Healthcare chatbots can help medical professionals to better communicate with their patients.
With healthcare chatbots, a healthcare provider can quickly respond to patient queries and provide follow-up care, improving healthcare outcomes.
Many chatbots are also equipped with natural language processing (NLP) technology, meaning that through careful conversation design, they can understand a range of questions and process healthcare-related queries. They then generate an answer using language that the user is most likely to understand, allowing users to have a smooth, natural-sounding interaction with the bot.
(Source: Sloboda Studio)
Chatbots in healthcare can also assist in making the post-discharge process from medical facilities smoother by providing doctors and nurses with an efficient way to communicate procedures, medicines needed, and any follow-up care the patient needs.
Patients are often overwhelmed by information in the discharge process, and a chatbot provides them with an avenue of communication that they can use to ask questions about upcoming procedures, recovery exercises, or medication.
Chatbots can also be used to send automated reminders about taking medication, filling prescriptions, and upcoming healthcare checkups. This can help service providers better manage patient recovery and healthcare outcomes, as well as reduce healthcare costs by preventing potentially costly medical errors.
QliqSOFT offers a chatbot to assist patients with their post-discharge care.
The QliqSOFT chatbot provides patients with care information and guidelines for recovery, allowing them to access information and ask questions at any time.
Medical services are also able to send consent forms to patients who can, in turn, send back a signed copy. QliqSOFT also offers a HIPAA-compliant method for doctors, nurses, and patients to communicate with each other, along with image and video sharing capabilities.
4. Providing basic mental healthcare
Chatbots and conversational AI have been widely implemented in the mental health field as a cheaper and more accessible option for healthcare consumers.
Chatbots can recognize warning signs of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, through conversational analysis. This enables medical services to intervene earlier on in cases where a patient may be at risk of developing a mental health condition or require further support.
Chatbots in healthcare can also be used to provide basic mental health assistance and support. This can include providing users with educational resources, helping to answer common mental health questions, or even just offering a listening ear through difficult times.
Many patients find making appointments with their preferred mental health practitioners difficult due to waiting times and costs. Going in person to speak to someone can also be an insurmountable hurdle for those who feel uncomfortable discussing their mental health needs in person.
Mental health chatbots and their usually calm and non-intimidating UI design can provide an alternative—allowing healthcare consumers to access professional healthcare guidance whenever and wherever they need it, at a fraction of the cost.
Woebot is a chatbot that utilizes cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) techniques to help users with depression and anxiety manage their mental health.
It assesses the current emotional state of the user by asking questions, then suggests activities and exercises for them to do. Woebot is transparent about how it cannot replace an appointment with a real human being, but it offers a listening ear and advice, often giving users further information and resources on techniques to better manage their emotions over time.
5. Providing diagnostic assistance
Chatbots in healthcare can also be used to provide consumers with basic diagnostic assistance and as a tool to assess symptoms before an in-person appointment.
By using NLP technology, medical chatbots can identify healthcare-related keywords in sentences and return useful advice for the patient.
A healthcare chatbot can also be used to quickly triage users who require urgent care by helping patients identify the severity of their symptoms and providing advice on when to seek professional help.
Helping users more accurately self-diagnose not only helps with decreasing professional workloads but also discourages the spread of misinformation. People are less likely to rely on unreliable sources if they have access to accurate healthcare advice from a healthcare chatbot.
Healthcare chatbots can also be used to collect and maintain patient data, like symptoms, lifestyle habits, and medical history after discharge from a medical facility.
With access to these patient records, clinicians can also identify any further issues that may arise, such as changes in medication and diet, or increased symptom severity—allowing healthcare personnel to intervene before the situation escalates into harmful outcomes for the patient.
On a macro level, healthcare chatbots can also monitor healthcare trends and identify rising issues in a population, giving updates based on a user’s GPS location. This is especially useful in areas such as epidemiology or public health, where medical personnel need to act quickly in order to contain the spread of infectious diseases or outbreaks.
Ada is an app-based symptom checker created by medical professionals, featuring a comprehensive medical library on the app.
The chatbot inquires about the symptoms the user is experiencing as well as their lifestyle, offers trustworthy information, and then compiles a report on the most likely causes based on the information given. It has been lauded as highly accurate, with detailed explanations and recommendations to seek further health advice for cases that need medical treatment.
Subscription is free, and the app operates internationally, making it highly accessible for users.
Seriously? Do I still have a job?
You do, don’t worry.
Even with how advanced chatbots have gotten, a real, living, breathing human being is not so easy to replace.
But, front-facing innovations like chatbot technology have the power to solve long-existing issues in the healthcare sector by increasing access to medical services and facilitating useful dialogue between patient and provider.
These healthcare chatbot use cases show that artificial intelligence can smoothly integrate with existing procedures and ease common stressors experienced by the healthcare industry.
Check out this next article to find out more about how to choose the best healthcare chatbot one for your clinic or practice.