Technology in healthcare has never been more important than it is today as healthcare providers and patients are navigating the public health crisis. Virtual check-ins via text and remote telehealth visits are common technology that allows patients to safely receive the care they need while minimizing their risk of exposure to COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. But have you heard of chatbots?

The adoption of chatbots in healthcare is growing exponentially. Research firm Frost & Sullivan predicts that by 2025, 90 percent of hospitals in the U.S. will use artificial intelligence and chatbots to augment care delivery.

What are healthcare chatbots?

Chatbot software leverages machine learning algorithms and natural language processing to engage users in conversation. The artificial intelligence-enabled tools can even mimic human conversations to make the experience more personal and engaging for the user. Chatbots aren’t intended to replace a physician-patient interaction, of course. But, they do help healthcare providers scale their ability to engage patients outside of the office in a way that’s relevant and individualized to each patient.

For example, healthcare chatbots could be used to facilitate anything from patient appointment scheduling or test results delivery to triage to the appropriate point of care. The applications of AI-powered technology are endless in the context of healthcare.

What are the benefits of using artificial intelligence in healthcare?

As technology continues revolutionizing the healthcare sector, healthcare chatbots offer patients better access and cheaper care without compromising quality. And, the technology offers numerous advantages for providers, too.

Automated machine learning frees up staff to focus on business priorities.

Medical chatbots offer patients easy access to the health information they need from their fingertips which means healthcare staff can spend less time juggling inbound and outbound calls. Appointment scheduling, billing, and registration, for example, are all operational tasks that could easily be conducted using chatbots rather than manual phone calls. With less time spent on the phone, healthcare providers can reduce labor costs and free up staff to care for the patients in front of them.

Scalability allows healthcare providers to engage more patients and improve clinical outcomes.

Chatbots allow healthcare providers to engage patients around-the-clock at the moment they have questions. From symptom questionnaires to chronic disease care management, medical chatbots help patients by connecting them to the right information about their conditions and treatments without an in-person visit to the doctor. As a result, chatbots can reduce hospital readmissions, eliminate unnecessary office visits, and fast-track care based on the type of care a patient needs. It’s nearly impossible to do this via one-on-one phone calls, but automated technology scales a healthcare provider’s ability to help patients make informed decisions about their care outside of the office.

Researchers at Frost and Sullivan predict that AI could potentially improve patient outcomes by 30 to 40 percent across a variety of specialties, from radiology and pathology to cardiology and cancer. That’s because AI improves the accuracy of risk prediction, which increases the number of patients who benefit from preventative treatment while simultaneously reducing the number of patients who receive unnecessary treatment.

And artificial intelligence isn’t limited to chatbots. No-show predictors, for example, leverage AI to predict which patients are most likely to miss a scheduled appointment. The prediction allows practices to proactively communicate with patients at a higher risk of no-shows or automatically overbook certain appointments based on historical data. In turn, practices can maximize their scheduling capacity while significantly decreasing the number of appointment slots that go unfilled or unattended.

Natural language processing enables a contactless experience with a personal touch.

Using AI, chatbots can convey compassion and support in human-like conversations. And, because the technology can be accessed anytime from anywhere, patients can be directed to the right health information or the right provider at the exact moment they need care. Since the chatbot conversation is conducted virtually, patients get the answers they need without compromising social distancing or exposing themselves to someone who may be infected in the healthcare setting. In the context of COVID-19, this helps keep your office staff safe, too, as you can potentially identify those who are at risk of having COVID-19 and triage them to a place of care prepared to manage their condition while mitigating the risk of others in the office.

How is chatbot technology being used in the healthcare industry?

Medical chatbots are being used in a variety of ways across operations, clinical care, and population health management. Most commonly, chatbots are categorized into three groups:

  • Conversational chatbots that answer health-related questions within the context patients ask them
  • Prescriptive chatbots that offer solutions, such as therapy for behavioral health
  • Informational chatbots that provide specific information, like advice on managing chronic conditions or advice for smoking cessation, for example

In the context of healthcare, that means chatbots can be used in the following scenarios, among others:

  • Appointment scheduling
  • Symptom checker
  • Virtual triage
  • Medication management
  • Patient check-in/registration
  • Patient education

The future of medical chatbots

From minimizing costly and inefficient workflows to improving patient engagement and quality outcomes, medical chatbots have the potential to revolutionize healthcare. Consultant firm Accenture estimates AI has the potential to create $150 billion annually in cost savings in the U.S. by 2026.

As the chatbot hype increases throughout the COVID-19 era, healthcare chatbots play a key role in caring for patients without compromising the safety of your staff. A chatbot used as a symptom checker, for example, can guide patients through a series of questions to determine if they may be infected with COVID-19. Based on their symptoms and risk, the chatbot can direct them to the appropriate level of care, whether it’s a testing site, an emergency room, or simply directions to self-quarantine at home.

As AI becomes more widespread in healthcare, chatbots will continue to aid in operations, diagnostics, and clinical care, freeing up healthcare providers to focus on the patients who need them the most. Schedule a free demo today to learn more about how medical chatbots can help you care for more patients.