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Chatbots in Healthcare: Benefits, Risks, and 5 Insightful Use Cases

Michal Krzysztof v2 a28a1397a9

05/05/2020 |

8 min read

Michał Krzysztof

There's no denying that artificial intelligence is making an impact in healthcare

According to a report from Accenture, over 40% of healthcare executives consider AI the technology that will have the greatest impact on their organizations within the next three years. Healthcare providers are already using various types of artificial intelligence, such as predictive analytics or machine learning, to address various issues. Today, an increasing number of them are looking into chatbots.

Read this article to learn everything you need to know about the use of chatbots in healthcare and discover 5 insightful use cases that display their potential.

What are AI chatbots in healthcare?

In the medical context, AI-powered chatbots can be used to triage patients and guide them to receive the appropriate help. Chatbots are considered a more reliable and accurate alternative to online searches patients carry out when they're trying to understand the cause of their symptoms.

Healthcare providers believe that chatbots might help patients who aren't sure where they should go to receive care. Many people don't know when their conditions require a visit to the ER and when it's enough to contact their doctors via telemedicine.

At the end of the day, regular people aren't trained medically to understand the severity of their diseases. That's where chatbots can help. They collect basic information from patients, and then, based on the input, they provide patients with more information about their conditions and suggest the next steps.

Benefits of chatbots in healthcare

AI chatbots can support clinical teams by lightening their daily caseloads. After analyzing the patient data, bots can suggest an online discussion with a clinician rather than a visit to their physical office. In its essence, the chatbot technology used in medical contexts promises to ease the burden on medical professionals. This is particularly relevant in today's situation, where the spread of COVID-19 puts an unprecedented burden on healthcare providers. With the support of this technology, medical centers could ease the pressure on their systems significantly.

Moreover, AI chatbots can improve the provider's ability to diagnose consistently and accurately. That way, providers will also be able to deliver care to more patients.

Other benefits of using bots are: 

  • better organization of patient pathways,
  • instant help in emergency situations or first aid,
  • medication management,
  • offering solutions for simpler medical issues.

How does chatbots in healthcare work?

Chatbots can also address specific issues. For example, Northwell Health recently launched a chatbot to reduce the number of no-shows for the colonoscopy procedure, which is critical for diagnosing colorectal cancer. This issue was particularly concerning because 40% of the less privileged patients didn't follow through with the procedure.

The personalized chatbot encourages patients by addressing the concerns or misunderstanding about the procedure and delivers information in a responsive and conversational way. By using the app, researchers can monitor patient satisfaction, cancellations, no-shows, and successfully completed exams.

Chatbots in healthcare – key risks

Naturally, just like any other technology, chatbots come with their shortcomings and disadvantages.

Let's make this clear: chatbots will never substitute doctors. 

They can provide many opportunities to facilitate their jobs or improve their performance but, ultimately, it's human doctors who are going to deliver the care.

One of the key concerns in the use of AI chatbots in healthcare is user privacy. The users of such software products might be reluctant to share their personal information with bots. Business owners who build healthcare do their best to implement data safety measures to ensure that their platforms are resistant to cyber-attacks. User privacy is a critical issue when it comes to any type of AI implementation, and sharing information about one's medical conditions with a chatbot seems less reliable than sharing the same information with a human doctor.

5 use cases of chatbots in healthcare

Now that you know how chatbots work, here are 5 use cases that illustrate what potential benefits they promise to healthcare providers, doctors, and patients. These include:

  1. Answering the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
  2. Scheduling appointments
  3. Symptom checking
  4. Health tracking
  5. Hiring and training

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

One of the most commonplace elements in websites is the FAQ section. Many providers now transform this section into an interactive chatbot feature on the homepage dedicated to responding to general inquiries.

Clinics and hospitals do that to make finding information easier for users. For example, a bot can answer questions such as which documents are necessary to receive treatment, what the payment tariffs are, how much is covered by the insurance, or what are the business hours. That way, a chatbot works like a one-stop-shop for answering all the general questions in seconds. Patients don't need to call the clinic or spend time navigating the website to find the information they need.

Scheduling appointments

The idea of a chatbot linked to a scheduling app is nothing new. But in the context of healthcare, such bots would allow users to schedule doctor's appointments easily. For example, a chatbot called Iris can schedule and cancel appointments, receive lab results, and send follow-up reminders. A chatbot designed specifically for the needs of a medical center could allow patients to book their appointments in less than a minute without ever having to get in touch with a human agent or receptionist.

Thanks to such an implementation, patients can simply select their doctor, choose the scheduled time slot, insert their personal information, and even add information about their symptoms so that the doctor is briefed on the reason for the visit. The bot can then send follow-up messages via text, email, or even voice message to remind patients about the scheduled appointments.

The greatest advantage of chatbots here is that they can deal with many user inquiries at the same time, and the staff won't be overwhelmed with the number of inquiries, no matter how high it gets.

Symptom checking

Healthcare providers are now implementing bots that allow users to check their symptoms and understand their medical condition from the comfort of their homes. Chatbots that use Natural Language Processing can understand patient requests regardless of the input variation. This is critical for meeting the high accuracy of responses, which is essential in symptom checkers.

With the knowledge of the input, the bot can assess information and help users narrow down the cause behind their symptoms. With all the data provided by the bot, users can determine whether professional treatment is needed or over-the-counter medications are enough. 

This is a win-win situation for patients and doctors. Patients can save their time and money when treating minor ailments with over-the-counter medication, and doctors have time for patients who require more attention.

One of the best examples of such chatbots is Ada, which was created by scientists, engineers, and doctors. Enriched with NLP and AI capabilities, Ada can help patients determine potential ailments and suggest possible treatments easily. 

Health tracking

Patients who require medical assistance on a regular basis can benefit from chatbots as well. For example, providers can use bots to create a link between their doctors and patients. Such a bot can provide a detailed record of the tracked health conditions and help assess the effects of prescribed management medication.

An example of such a chatbot is Florence, a personal medical system designed for people who undergo long-term medical care. Users of the bot can get extra information about clinic locations and benefit from features such as health tracking, medication reminder, and statistics.

Hiring and training

Large healthcare companies are constantly hiring and onboarding new employees. To process these applications, they usually end up generating a lot of paperwork that needs to be filled out and credentials that need to be double-checked. By connecting chatbots to such facilities, the job of Human Resources departments will become easier. For example, new employees could subscribe to a chatbot and become integrated into the onboarding process for a new hire or get information about the company.

An organization can use chatbots to send files to new hires whenever needed, automatically remind new hires to complete their forms, and automate many other tasks such as requests for vacation time, maternity leave, and others.

The future of chatbots in healthcare

In the future, we're going to see more comprehensive chatbots solutions emerge on the market. The most innovative chatbots will combine many of the features mentioned above.

For example, a chatbot will help users to check their symptoms and, on the basis of the diagnosis, book an appointment, answer their questions, and even offer direct telemedicine consultation with a doctor through video chat. After such consultation, the doctor will prescribe medicine and the prescription will be stored in the system.

There is certainly a lot of room for growth in the healthcare sector when it comes to AI and other innovative technological solutions. Cloud adoption rates are on the rise, and an increasing number of healthcare providers are looking into new ways for streamlining their processes and reducing wait times.

For more insights about how the healthcare sector is using modern technologies, keep a close eye on our blog. And if you're searching for a technology partner for your healthtech project, don't hesitate to reach out to us

Rated: 5.0 / 1 opinions
Michal Krzysztof v2 a28a1397a9

Michał Krzysztof

Sales Director at Codete

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