The adoption of chatbots and virtual assistants, coupled with the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning technology, has revolutionized the healthcare industry. In many ways, chatbots have become ubiquitous, providing a more optimized user experience through digital means.
The healthcare industry has already benefited immensely from this technology, namely through greater access to valuable services and information, more accuracy in determining what care patients require, and reduced costs for patients and providers alike. Below, I take a deeper look into these benefits.
Improved Access to Quality Care and Information
For many patients, actually visiting a physician or specialist can be challenging; the commute often takes a considerable amount of time, which is difficult for working individuals and those without reliable transportation, and in some cases, patients may feel that their concerns are not worth the hassle of a trip. Chatbots can provide a simple solution to these issues by reducing unnecessary transportation and associated costs and providing insight into patient concerns to determine whether an in-person consultation is essential.
Similarly, the adoption of chatbots in healthcare, especially in areas like skilled nursing facilities where there tend to be problems with staff shortages, can reduce the strain on limited resources, allowing skilled professionals to dedicate more of their time and energy to cases that demand the full use of their expertise.
By providing individuals who have questions or concerns about their health with immediate access to medical insight and guidance, chatbots can help efficiently clerk and triage patients through preliminary, automated queries and notation which doctors can then easily access and reference.
Additionally, some chatbots have proven effective in the healthcare industry by operating in an informational or conversational fashion. Users can easily query chatbots for more information about symptoms, conditions, complications, and treatments, allowing them to have increased access to vital information that might otherwise be difficult to locate or understand. While the internet at large offers an expansive amount of data, factual and verified information may not always be present, and chatbots can facilitate the dissemination of approved information to users, reducing the risk of harmful misinformation.
The use of natural language processing (NLP) and natural language understanding (NLU) can enable chatbots to effectively engage with users, granting them appropriate answers and insight to better educate their healthcare decisions.
More Accurate Connections to Suitable Care Providers
Improving efficiency and accuracy of healthcare recommendations and relevant information to patient queries has been a top priority in this digital age, and the use of chatbots has already helped users make more informed decisions so that they can acquire better care.
Chatbots like Grace have improved healthcare recommendation accuracy through queries and interactions. By informing a chatbot of their symptoms, users can receive appropriate recommendations for next steps in seconds, expediting the process. In some cases, chatbots can assist with the next steps by helping users schedule appointments, providing insights into expected costs and copays, transferring user medical records to the desired facility, and more.
The use of chatbots has become increasingly popular, especially for patients looking to receive immediate attention and answers. Chatbots can be effective for users seeking same- or next-day appointments with healthcare providers by collecting important information, conveying this data to practitioners, and assisting in scheduling matters to ensure users are connected with the appropriate facilities.
A More Humanized, Patient-Oriented Approach
One of the most promising and productive advantages of chatbots in healthcare relates to their potential for human engagement, personalization, and efficiency. Early iterations of AI and chatbots were certainly limited in their capacity for human interaction, but through machine learning, NLP, and NLU, chatbots are now more capable of processing users’ messages and responding in organic, practical, and helpful ways.
One example of this is Woebot, a chatbot that uses cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to help users who are suffering from emotional distress or mental health issues like depression or anxiety. Woebot can help users cope with their symptoms through guided exercises and prompts for self-reflection. Many users find that communicating with a chatbot in this way is easier than speaking to a real person, and the technology available allows chatbots to be engaging, effective, and useful.
Other companies like QliqSOFT have developed technology that allows the creation of “digital humans.” In essence, these AI-driven chatbots are able to empathetically communicate with patients, document important data, and convey information to patients and healthcare professionals alike. These abilities facilitate a more efficient, effective, patient-oriented approach to healthcare without detracting from existing practices or standards.
Chatbots cannot (and should not) replace humans, but they can be used alongside human care to improve the patient experience, provide personalized answers and insights, and encourage an individualized approach to patient care.
As healthcare technology continues to advance, the implementation of chatbots in the industry, especially in specialized institutions like skilled nursing facilities, is both inevitable and promising. By providing healthcare professionals and patients with opportunities to collect important user data, share vital information, spread verified facts, and provide expert guidance outside of a traditional medical setting, chatbots will certainly continue to be an asset in the industry. Capitalizing on this trend and investing in the future of chatbots will be a wise choice for healthcare professionals moving forward.
About Bent Philipson
Bent Philipson is the founder of Philosophy Care, a consulting firm providing a range of services to skilled nursing facilities throughout New York and New Jersey dedicated to providing each resident with individualized care. Philipson is recognized as a leading expert in nursing home care, advancements in rehabilitation technology, and changes in the healthcare landscape.