Chatbots for Healthcare

Chatbots are one of the branches of artificial intelligence that have been developing the most in recent years. They are one of the best known technological tools because they are mostly designed to hold conversations with humans.

You’ve probably heard about chatbots before whether for customer service, tech support or education. But have you heard of chatbots in the healthcare industry?

What can chatbots in healthcare be used for?

With the increasing popularity of chatbots, we are constantly discovering new ways in which virtual assistants can help nurses, physicians, patients and families. They can help for simple tasks like reminding patients to take their medications and scheduling appointments but they can also be used to deal with more complex issues. In fact, chatbots for mental health and therapy are being developed. For example, Replika is an intelligent chatbot that navigates feelings and empathy.

Chatbot technology can be used in different ways in the healthcare industry. There are already various health chatbots on the market and each bot is different and designed with a specific objective in mind. Here are the main uses for health bots so far:

  • To guide users to the appropriate health services and resolve doubts
  • To guide people to the appropriate insurance services
  • To improve treatment compliance
  • To remind patients to take their medication
  • To act as a personal health assistant
  • To offer direct medical attention based on the information stored in databases (medical conditions, etc.)
  • To offer guidance for diagnostics (symptom checker, etc.)
  • To help chronic patients (follow-up, motivational health coach, etc.)
  • To schedule and manage medical visits
  • To provide health information for different pathologies (what to do, patient guide, legal information, etc.)
  • To interact with patients and offer emotional support. Chatbots have a lot of potential in the treatment of mental illnesses.
  • To educate the population when visits to the doctor are not possible
  • Data collection for population studies
  • To carry out prevention or awareness campaigns
  • Sale of pharmaceutical products
  • And much more.

Advantages of chatbots in healthcare

Many people tend to be skeptical when they hear mentions of virtual assistants in the context of healthcare. This is a natural reaction, considering that medical care is a serious matter, with very little room for experimentation. However, medical professionals are aware of the unique benefits that health bots bring to healthcare.

Here are the main advantages of chatbots in this industry:

  • Chatbots are unbiased. Virtual assistants have no gender, race or age and they don’t feel tired or sick, ever. In some cases, they can be better suited than humans to help patients because they are unprejudiced. In fact, some people feel more comfortable talking about their personal problems to digital assistants. They are sometimes willing to divulge more medical information and share more symptoms.
  • They have immense potential in the treatment of mental illnesses. They facilitate an interaction with the patient where he can feel more comfortable. The notion of social stigma disappears.
  • They are available 24/7. They are always available, which is especially convenient for people who have medical concerns or emergencies outside of a doctor’s operating hours.
  • They are cost-effective. Chatbots are known to have reduced costs related to health systems significantly. They lower costs by speeding up response times, increasing productivity and streamlining operations.
  • They can communicate in multiple languages. Chatbots are available in different languages in order to better understand patients and fill their individual needs.

What is the value of chatbots in healthcare?

To understand the value of using chatbots within healthcare it is necessary to consider the costs of providing the chatbot services, the economic value generated by these services and the risks these services might introduce to the process. As mentioned in other blogs, it is important to also consider whether the chatbot is the best interface for the task at hand, as opposed to a graphical interface.

We first need to consider steps that users of healthcare services might undertake when they have an issue.

This is a brainstorm of the steps (and the steps will differ for different people and situations) however it is hopefully illustrative of the general approach.

  1. Identify a personal issue
  2. Search online to understand the seriousness
  3. Search for appropriate medical professionals
  4. Evaluate medical professionals
  5. Book with chosen medical professional
  6. Visit medical professional
  7. Check-in at reception
  8. Provide insurance details
  9. See the doctor
  10. Get assigned a medical test
  11. Get a prescription
  12. Pay for the visit
  13. Book the medical test
  14. [Carry out similar steps for medical test]
  15. [Carry out similar steps to follow up with the doctor]
  16. Go to pharmacy
  17. Present prescription
  18. Get medication
  19. Pay for medication

We now want to consider whether any of the above steps could be appropriately carried out with the help of a chatbot. Again this is brainstorming so there will be many other relevant (and potentially better) ideas for each step. The important point is to see how chatbots can provide value to the customer.

Of course, not all the above steps are realistic and some would introduce privacy concerns. It is, however, useful to consider which steps might have an outsized benefit on the customer experience and potentially generate more profit.

Need a chatbot for your business or organization?

Botpress is an inclusive and open-source conversational AI platform for developers who wish to create chatbots. If you want to develop your own chatbot or wish to learn more about our platform and services, don’t hesitate to contact us or Request a demo.