The Future of Chatbots

Healthcare providers are faced with a wide range of challenges. The costs of managing patients can be high. Routine communication involving appointments, bills and general information can eat up great portions of your staff’s time. And, patients can often become dissatisfied when they cannot connect with answers from their healthcare providers as quickly as they’d like. Thankfully, there is an increasingly available solution to these issues with the availability of artificial intelligence, specifically through chatbots.

Artificial intelligence is more prevalent than ever before. This emerging technology can be seen more often in everyday life. The place most people are likely to run into AI is through chatbots. More and more people are using messaging programs to contact a range of professionals and services; according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, the recently acquired WhatsApp has 1.5 billion active users. People are reaching out to their medical providers through websites and mobile phones, as well as messaging apps that include Facebook Messenger, Slack and Telegram, and chatbots are an excellent way for patients to get the information that they need.

Chatbots are extremely useful in healthcare because they can allow users to solve problems through conversation without the need to have human respondents constantly at the ready. For instance, the WeChat bots have the ability to book an appointment with a doctor, transfer money and perform other essential services. More and more automated support is just over the horizon. Grand View Research predicts that the global chatbot market will be worth $1.25 billion by 2025, a growth of nearly 25% every year.

Hospitals Are Adding Chatbots More and More

Computer programs that conduct conversation via text are being used to help identify patient symptoms, manage medications and monitor patients with chronic health issues.

The ubiquity of smartphones, paired with the internet of things, greater use of health applications, telemedicine and other technologies of this kind, is driving market growth.

It is worthwhile to emphasize that the chatbot is not designed to diagnose a person. Rather, the chatbot is designed to guide people and use dialog to learn if a patient is seriously ill and in need of medical care. Once the chatbot has identified someone who needs help, that patient can be transferred to a healthcare professional who will take it from there. This saves doctors time and allows them to allocate resources to the patients who need it.

Benefits of Chatbots

These programs offer a wealth of benefits to medical practices. Some of the top benefits include:

  • Chatbots automate information distribution. Information that is allowed to be disseminated through bots can be sent as needed, any time. Plus, the transaction can be seamlessly handed over to a human whenever needed.
  • Chatbots increase patient access. Patients aren’t limited to office hours. They can get the information they need at any time of day or night.
  • Chatbots are scalable. When your human staff gets too many requests, you need to hire more people. But a chatbot can handle one interaction or 1,000 interactions without any issue.
  • Chatbots save you money. Experts estimate that healthcare chatbots will save $3.6 billion globally by 2022, up from an estimated $2.8 billion in 2017.
  • Chatbots provide information fast. Chatbots don’t just handle interactions with patients. They can also help with internal record-keeping. A number of institutions have AI that receives important information and notifies medical professionals when needed.
  • Chatbots result in fewer missed appointments. A single missed appointment costs a healthcare provider on average $200. Reminder messages from chatbots can make it far less likely that patients will forget to show up.
  • Chatbots can engage in lead generation. By meeting potential patients in the channels they are most likely to use, chatbots can increase brand awareness and show patients the value of the brand.

Providers Solving Problems With Chatbots

While all of this sounds futuristic, there are a number of chatbots already in action. A few popular bots helping make healthcare better and more accessible include:

  • Safedrugbot: This chat messaging service offers a virtual assistant to doctors and other health professionals. The bot provides information about active ingredients in medications and helps doctors identify potential drug interactions and contraindications. For instance, if a patient is breastfeeding, Safedrugbot can identify which medications are safe.
  • Izzy: This chatbot takes the form of a fluffy yellow bird that communicates through Facebook Messenger. The bot helps women track their periods to determine times of fertility, as well as whether their cycle is regular and normal for them.
  • Babylon Health: This chatbot offers AI consultations to patients based on their personal medical histories. Patients discuss symptoms, and the app checks them against a database. When needed, the patient is handed over to a live physician who can proceed to provide medical care.
  • Florence: Compliance with medication is a major issue in patient outcomes. Florence functions as a personal nurse and reminder that can remind patients over Skype, Facebook Messenger or Kik when to take their pills.
  • Your.Md: This free chatbot platform offers actionable health information to help users make informed decisions about their health. The symptom checker helps patients understand what is going on and allows them to decide when they need a doctor’s care and when they can get better on their own. The award-winning bot is available on Android, iOS, Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Kik and Slack.

Obstacles to Adoption

There are still a few things in the way of wider adoption of chatbots and AI. Addressing these difficulties can help increase access to this valuable technology:

  • Resistance in older patients: Many are more used to face-to-face interactions and may have trouble using newer technology.
  • Security vulnerabilities: Anywhere there is a digital interface, there is a vulnerability to hacking. All of those implementing AI and chatbots must understand proper security procedures.
  • HIPAA compliance: Likewise, professionals must stay within medical data privacy requirements to protect patient data and avoid costly violations.

By being mindful of these potential obstacles, medical professionals can make the most of this technology for their own benefit and their patients’ benefit too. By understanding the requirements and addressing any hurdles, medical professionals will become better at deploying this technology and getting the sorts of results they are looking for.

Summing Up
The potential for AI and chatbots to improve medical care, increase patient satisfaction and lower medical costs is enormous. Savvy medical professionals and those who work with them should continue to look for ways that chatbots and other AI can save time, improve outcomes and make a better, healthier future.