Aug 14 2020

“Are You There, Chatbot?”: Automated Care Grows Up

AI-enabled solutions in healthcare are moving beyond a simple one-way transfer of information.

Now more than ever, patients find themselves relying on a digital-first approach to healthcare — an arrangement that, at first, might not involve a human on the other end of the exchange.

News about the use of digital tools in healthcare, most commonly as chatbots, is breaking daily: Providence St. Joseph Health built an online screening and triage tool for patients with coronavirus symptoms. Mass General Brigham rolled out a similar artificial intelligence–based chatbot to rapidly differentiate between possible COVID-19 cases and less threatening ailments. Even the CDC hosts an AI-driven bot on its website to help screen for coronavirus infections.

And while these tools’ rise in popularity can be accredited to the very nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, AI’s role in healthcare has been growing steadily on its own for years — and that’s anticipated to continue.

According to the global tech market advisory firm ABI Research, AI spending in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries is expected to increase from $463 million in 2019 to more than $2 billion over the next 5 years.

Today, AI-powered chatbots work well beyond helping frightened patients assess their symptoms and determine next steps: The technology has the ability to recommend treatments and schedule visits, among other things. And it can be an asset to busy organizations seeking to deploy staff elsewhere.

Intelligent, Empathetic and Supportive Care

Chatbots provide instant conversational responses and make connecting simple for patients. And when implemented properly, they can help care providers to surpass patient expectations and improve patient outcomes.

However, AI solutions sometimes lack the most important quality to good care delivery: a human touch.

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association found that chatbots in healthcare are deemed most helpful when the chatbot’s ability, patient compliance, integrity and benevolence match that of a human agent.

For companies like QliqSOFT, which has focused its solutions on enhancing patient engagement and satisfaction, this comes as little surprise.

QliqSOFT’s Quincy chatbot solution, which is powered by an AI engine and driven by natural-language processing, enables real-time, patient-centered collaboration through text messaging. The tool helps patients with everything from finding a doctor and scheduling appointments to outpatient monitoring and much more.

By taking an all-in-one communication approach, Quincy encourages patients to proactively share their health information, which, in turn, enables care providers to cut costs, improve care quality and boost patient satisfaction.

The recent release of UneeQ’s Digital Human Creator Platform is yet another example of how AI in healthcare is taking a more humanized approach. Equipped with native integrations into Google, Microsoft, IBM, Amazon and more, UneeQ Creator brings healthcare providers the ability to easily create and deploy digital-human employees.

This means that hospitals could leverage digital humans as health assistants, capable of providing empathetic, around-the-clock aid to patients, particularly before or after their surgery. Designed to make patients feel both valued and validated, the platform goes a long way in encouraging emotional connections between patients and their digital-human assistant — taking the concept of AI to a new level compared with what most people think it can do.

DISCOVER: Learn how AI can help patients take control of their care.

Experience Matters — So Does Patient Preference

Despite AI’s promising future in healthcare, adoption of the technology will still come down to patient experience and — more important — patient preference.

A single bad experience with an automated customer service platform can quickly turn patients off to enterprise AI solutions as a whole, which is why it’s so critical that care providers play their part in training patients on the solutions they choose to use, explaining how the tools can save patients time and be influential in their care.

It’s also not realistic to expect every patient to be on board with digital-care solutions beyond their current use in this pandemic. Having multiple points of entry for care —chatbots, telehealth visits, in-person consultations — provides patients with the valuable choice of how they want to receive it, ultimately boosting their confidence in and loyalty to their care provider.

This article is part of HealthTech’s MonITor blog series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using #WellnessIT.

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