Technology is constantly influencing the healthcare industry. Along with the scientific breakthroughs in medicine, the communication between doctors and patients has also evolved. The care journey of patients has drastically improved, thanks to artificial intelligence. Healthcare chatbots have transformed the way medical tête-à-tête happens. The software has the potential of diagnosing medical conditions and even providing medical advice based on how advanced it is. Like any other industry, even the healthcare domain faces a lot of hurdles that are simplified by AI. Here is how:
Dominant Challenges in Healthcare
The healthcare industry ranks very low in terms of the Net Promoter Score. This simply means that people are least likely to talk about healthcare brands to their peers. Owing to the complexity of the domain and lack of trust among users, the Net Promoter Score gradually recedes. Nevertheless, the urgency of information has permeated the healthcare sector. Thus, patients are eager to understand their symptoms and get the answers they are seeking ASAP.
To better understand the role of AI in healthcare, consider this scenario. Suppose a patient visits the website of a nearby clinic outside of working hours. Now, even when they have a lot of questions, they still can’t get a professional opinion until they meet the doctor. In the meantime, they see a chat box pop up on the website, which claims to offer instant assistance. The patient types in their query and the chatbot answers away.
The patient is thus happy with the support and feels relieved after receiving a quick response. Now the chatbot further helps the patient in booking an appointment with the doctor. This way, the patient trusts the doctor’s brand already without even visiting their clinic. And this is precisely how chatbots can augment communication in healthcare.
Let us not forget the trauma patients go through when they Google the symptoms they experience. More often than not, they end up concluding that they have some major health issues. Patients can be helped comprehensively without making them panic and worry. By typing their questions in a chatbot, they will get the upfront authentic information. Moreover, they will also be helped with further assistance in optimizing their health. Lastly, getting information at the right time will save them from self-diagnosis, which usually does more harm than good.
Role of AI in Healthcare
Here is how AI has made a positive impact on healthcare:
- Ensuring Data Security: Hospitals and clinics have humongous data comprising pathology reports, medical records, and insurance claims, etc. With this overwhelming data, sensitive information of clients could be at stake. The past couple of years have witnessed 91% of data breaches in healthcare organizations. This staggering statistic also paves the way for hacking, which is yet another prevalent issue in healthcare. Admiringly, AI helps in ensuring the security of the clinical data using machine learning algorithms. The technology detects risk factors early on, thus preventing such unethical instances.
- Win-win for Both Patients and Doctors: After consulting the doctor, the patients usually have a lot of doubts and questions which they keep to themselves. Leaning into the misunderstanding, they proceed with the treatment without even getting their queries cleared. AI (chatbot, in particular) helps in clearing all such questions that the patient might have. As a result, healthcare administration is improved. Moreover, the receptionists or nurses also need not respond to redundant queries of the patient (since most of them are taken care of by the chatbot).
- Boosting Effective Communication: Chatbots have added immense value to the healthcare industry. Automated texting reduces the workload of receptionists and doctors significantly. Moreover, it also helps the clinic/hospital in gaining useful feedback, which can improve their operations. This positively affects the way people engage with healthcare brands. According to research, 40% of customers prefer chat support compared to the other channels.
How Chatbots Facilitate Communication in Healthcare
Chatbots have been a commendable innovation of Artificial Intelligence. Patients can now communicate their issues through messenger and quickly get a consultation. Moreover, they no longer have to face the daunting waiting period just to get their general questions solved. The chatbot also captures all the pre-requisite information about the patient, which the doctor can assess before the appointment.
Medical chatbots aim at helping patients faster while charging them less than what a medical professional will. As per a survey, 56% of participants said that they would be fine if a chatbot diagnosed their child. Yet another demographic stat shows that 80% of Asians are willing to use chatbots, which is quite an impressive number.
Apart from diagnosis, chatbots are now acting as virtual therapists too. These chatbots communicate with the patients and help them through their issues. The best part is that the users can open up to virtual therapists without any fear of judgment. They can get the guidance they need wherever they are, whenever they want. The anonymity of the chatbot proves to be its biggest strength in such scenarios.
Healthcare Chatbots Examples
While patients might be considering a visit to the doctor, they still have a lot of questions related to their condition. For instance, if someone has a runny nose and fever, they would want to confirm if it is just a common cold or viral flu. If they get the right information at the right time, they can make an informed decision about consulting a healthcare professional.
Recently chatbots have become an indispensable tool in the efforts to curb the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic. Conversational Chatbots let people consult a ‘physician’ without them meeting face-to-face. This ties in particularly well with the concept of Social Distancing. Chatbots are able to answer common questions people might have, like ‘should I wear a mask?’ or ‘what are the symptoms of the virus?’, correctly and consistently. They can also ‘qualify’ the people who might need serious medical attention, thereby freeing healthcare professionals to focus their efforts on where it’s needed.
Here are a few examples of such chatbots:
- Providence St. Joseph Health has launched it’s own healthcare chatbot to let people assess their own risk of contracting the Coronavirus. It uses Microsoft Azure and provides concerned people with a way to screen themselves.
- Pakistan, announced the launch of a chatbot to address COVID 19 queries. It can converse in both English and Urdu as well answer common queries and schedule tests. The data is available to the public through an online dashboard.
- Paginemediche, has created a tool to supplement the efforts by the Italian government to spread the Coronavirus. Apart from answering common questions, the chatbot lets doctors interact with potential patients through remote visits.
Chatbots have transformed healthcare communication over the years. The experts state that 3 out of 5 doctor visits would be irrelevant if the common questions of patients are addressed via chatbots. The clinic visits are also estimated to reduce by a whopping 60% as the chatbots handle patient queries.
Although chatbot doesn’t eliminate the need to see a doctor in person, it automates a lot of other aspects that save time and money for both patients and doctors. Moreover, talking to a highly intelligent chatbot saves the patients from the white coat syndrome (anxiety and high blood pressure caused just by being in a doctor’s clinic).
Besides, patients with impaired mobility can benefit from the convenience of chatbots. Last but not least, having a chatbot around takes away the apprehension patients face when they don’t get immediate answers to their concerns. When complemented with Natural Language Processing, the chatbot can also cater to visually handicapped patients, thus truly revolutionizing healthcare.