Last Updated on June 21, 2022
These were the exact words used by Sundar Pichai in 2018 in his demo of Google Duplex, an AI-powered voice agent that is an added feature to Google Assistant.
Sure enough, fast forward to four years later, and people across the globe are making use of Duplex to make reservations and book appointments.
AI-powered systems and chatbots have been making huge strides in almost every industry. It is no surprise then that the healthcare industry is also finding multiple use cases and applications for artificial intelligence-powered systems.
One of the biggest reasons for the growth of AI chatbots in the healthcare industry is its effect on bringing down overhead costs. Coupled with the growing popularity of smart devices and rapid internet connectivity, chatbots are a surefire way to ensure patient engagement and tackle staffing challenges.
It suffices to say that AI-powered chatbots are on their way to becoming the next revolution in healthcare.
As this new era of artificial intelligence takes over the healthcare industry, it is critical to understand all the ways in which chatbots are changing healthcare.
And that’s what we are covering in this article.
Without further ado, let’s deep dive into how healthcare chatbots are revolutionizing the U.S. healthcare industry.
Five ways chatbots are transforming the healthcare industry
Dissemination of crucial medical information
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic redefined the world as we know it. Among many industries, the healthcare industry is obviously one to take a huge hit. In no time, healthcare practices found themselves to be understaffed. Add to this the spread of misinformation and panic that led to both symptomatic and asymptomatic patients flocking to hospitals in huge numbers.
To combat this, major healthcare authorities such as the World Health Organization (WHO) implemented healthcare chatbots that were equipped to offer detailed information to the general public on symptoms of COVID-19, precautions, and instructions to follow on testing COVID positive, nearest medical facilities and more.
This is instrumental in reducing panic among the masses, thereby bringing down the number of patients who visit the hospital merely out of a fear that they may have contracted the virus.
Similarly, healthcare chatbots can be used to disseminate critical information about flu outbreaks and other public health concerns whenever public awareness is required.
2. Patient engagement
Patient engagement is an intuitive process where patients are consistently educated about their medical conditions, treatment plans, and wellness. In order to facilitate this, it is important for healthcare providers to maintain constant communication with their patients.
Efficient patient engagement requires healthcare professionals who are specifically assigned the task of periodically getting in touch with both new and existing patients to help them reach their healthcare goals. Now, considering how healthcare institutions are already facing a dearth of medical personnel, this can be quite a tough task.
However, healthcare chatbots offer an efficient solution to the problem.
Healthcare chatbots can be used to set up appointment reminders, drug information, drug administration instructions, symptom assessment, and so much more.
By defining different touchpoints and detailed pathways, healthcare chatbots can be used to provide the required support to patients at different stages of their healthcare journey. They can even be trained to provide the first level of primary care for non-critical patients, easing the burden on healthcare staff.
In this way, healthcare chatbots can be leveraged to engage with patients regularly and exactly when required.
3. Automate redundant tasks
Healthcare staff deal with a number of administrative tasks on a daily basis. From collecting patient records to handling multiple queries, a large chunk of time is spent on mundane, repetitive tasks. This ultimately leads to staff burnout and a drop in productivity.
With chatbots, you can easily automate these tasks. Healthcare chatbots can be trained to collect essential patient data and store them systematically. They can also be leveraged to collect patient feedback. Chatbots can even be used to answer FAQs that come in on a daily basis. This includes any and all queries related to hospital networks, health insurance, patient appointments, and more. Once healthcare chatbots are equipped to take over these time-consuming, repetitive tasks, healthcare staff are able to focus on much more complex tasks, thereby increasing productivity and efficiency.
4. Aid in prescription refills
If you are someone who has a health concern that requires you to take prescription drugs on a regular basis, then you know the hassle behind getting your refills on time. It involves multiple calls to the pharmacist and sometimes repeatedly having to furnish your details in order to get your medicines. It can get frustrating.
Implementing healthcare chatbots, on the other hand, can provide a two-fold advantage. With chatbots able to collect patient details and the required drug information, healthcare staff don’t have to deal with multiple phone calls and follow-up requests. Additionally, patients just need to drop their details once using the chatbot, and the chatbot will take care of checking the inventory and getting a doctor’s approval. Once this is done, the healthcare chatbot will simply notify you once your order is packed and ready to be collected.
5. Assist with mental health concerns
The role of healthcare chatbots in assisting patients with their mental health deserves a special mention. Healthcare chatbots, or ‘therapist’ chatbots, in this case, can provide online therapy and can be used to effectively help out patients.
In addition to all the usual ways, such as 24/7 assistance and enabling seamless appointment bookings, healthcare chatbots can be used for cognitive behavioral therapy.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) focuses on identifying and then changing those thoughts and patterns that can negatively influence a person’s mental health.
Artificial intelligence experts work together with psychologists and mental health professionals to create healthcare chatbots that can understand the intent of a conversation and then respond with exchanges that are CBT-oriented. This means that, on some level, healthcare chatbots can act as a therapist. Human intervention can be called in whenever necessary.
Fun fact: The very first ‘chatterbot’ or chatbot as we call it today, was developed in 1966 and was called Eliza. Interestingly enough, ELIZA acted as a therapist, asking open-ended questions and then responding with follow-ups!
Since ELIZA, chatbots have come a long way and have gotten much more advanced. Innovation and technology have enabled us to leverage chatbots for complex use cases and applications in healthcare, easing staffing challenges, reducing overhead costs, and so much more. Without question, there are more exciting prospects for chatbots in the field of healthcare, enabling them to operate seamlessly.
Kommunicate, an efficient customer support platform, enables you to build custom healthcare chatbots for various use cases. Their NLP-based bot builder allows you to build chatbots with zero code and in no time. If you’d like to learn more, simply visit Kommunicate.io or try it for free here.
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