Many times, when people think of chatbots, they often think of them in the context of retail customer service. They provide discount codes and answer questions about shipping and services. Yet, with recent advances in conversational AI technology, chatbots have found a new home: healthcare institutions.
Patients have more complex needs than online shoppers, so how do chatbots meet their often rigorous questions and demands? Let's explore that by investigating six revolutionary ways AI chatbots are already helping healthcare practices around the world.
Chatbots Schedule Appointments in the Healthcare Industry
The front desk at any medical practice is a busy place. Receptionists guide patients through paperwork, file insurance claims and keep appointments on schedule. With a full waiting room, patients calling about scheduling an appointment are often put on hold.
According to marketing researchers, customers spend an average of 13 minutes on hold while most people get angry about it after just two minutes. By integrating your patient information system and calendar into an AI chatbot system, that wait can be eliminated completely.
A patient only has to visit any of your service channels, ask the chatbot to schedule an appointment, and choose an available time. While some patients may prefer doing it by phone, recent surveys show almost 70% of patients would rather schedule appointments online because of the convenience. They can do it in minutes and at any time while your staff focuses on providing excellent patient care.
If they forget when, which office or with which doctor they scheduled their appointments for, an AI chatbot can answer those questions quickly and at any time. Once again, patients won't have to stay on hold for a simple question.
Though scheduling is often a simple task, almost 80% of surveyed physicians see it as a chatbot's most innovative and useful application.
Patients Can Find the Right Providers and Services
Imagine you run a family dentistry practice that's part of a larger local network. Your particular location handles routine cleanings, extractions, fillings and root canals. However, a customer calls wanting to schedule an appointment to get porcelain veneers. After being put on hold, they're frustrated after being told to call a different office. A patient and receptionist have both wasted valuable time.
This is where conversational AI excels. Programmed to respond to patient questions based on keywords and phrases, a conversational chatbot would see the patient's question, "Do you do porcelain veneers?" and give them contact information for an office that does and even help the patient make an appointment — no frustration involved.
Chatbots Collect Information Without Long, Confusing Forms
In a 2018 survey of over 20,000 medical professionals, 70% of physicians said they spend 10 hours or more on paperwork. That time dedicated to administrative tasks extends to everyone in the office and reduces face-to-face time with patients. While there will always be some amount of detailed paperwork necessary, chatbots can cut it down significantly.
Instead of relying on patients filling out paperwork on the day of their appointment, a chatbot can guide them through it days in advance. That gives your practice more time to analyze patient histories, prepare for the appointment and see patients as soon as they walk in the door.
Do you really need a chatbot for that, though? Can't you have patients just fill out forms on your website?
People's hatred of filling out forms stems from how intimidating pages of redundant, complicated questions seem. For people with learning differences or vision problems, it's even worse. A chatbot guides them through questions with a friendly yet efficient tone in the comfort of their own homes.
They Transfer Patients to Live Medical Professionals When Needed
Patients can get answers to a long list of questions from an AI chatbot including:
- What services does your practice provide?
- When is my appointment?
- Can I reschedule my appointment?
- Is your practice in my insurance network?
However, an AI chatbot's usefulness doesn't end with these simple inquiries. Consider a patient that has just undergone surgery. He or she has questions about the side effects of a post-surgery prescription. The chatbot gathers vital information about their health status, history and symptoms.
While this is happening, the artificial intelligence system alerts the office and connects the patient with a staff member. This staff member can view data collected by the chatbot and then take the chatbot's place to answer more complicated questions for the patient.
This keeps patients from staying on hold and prevents staff from combing through mountains of patient and medication information. With the help of a chatbot, your staff only enters conversations when needed. When the time comes, they enter the conversation seamlessly so the patient doesn’t feel like they’re being bounced from person to person.
Chatbots Are Vital to Patient Education and Initial Self-diagnosis
Not every patient inquiry requires direct staff response. There's a wealth of resources available online that could help patients through worries and questions. However, for every valuable resource a search engine brings up, there's a handful of unvalidated and ill-informed articles.
An AI chatbot can be programmed to educate patients with doctor-approved resources. Instead of searching for information and wading through thousands of questionable answers, a patient can ask the chatbot his or her question and receive one detailed answer.
For instance, imagine a patient is worried about developing an eye infection after cataract surgery. After asking your chatbot, "What are the signs of an eye infection?" the system can send them a link to resources on the American Academy of Ophthalmology website. Without scheduling an appointment, they'll have the best information, approved by your practice, at their fingertips.
That's not just conjecture. Recent research shows that chatbots play a valuable role in every stage of patient self-diagnosis. By establishing patient history, evaluating symptoms and providing an initial diagnosis, patients can learn about sudden or chronic medical conditions and where to go for further medical assistance.
While many medical professionals balk at the idea of patient self-diagnosis because many patients do it too quickly or without the proper information, AI chatbots give the process a much-needed guiding hand.
Medical Staff Use Chatbots For Record Access
So far, we've focused on how AI chatbots in healthcare streamline patient-provider interactions, but how do chatbots help medical staff in the office?
Some regulations dictate that medical practices hold patient records for up to 10 years. That's a lot of paperwork to comb through when preparing a care plan. If you integrate your record-keeping system into a conversational AI program, you have a digital assistant always on-hand to bring up those records.
Simply ask the chatbot about the patient and it can bring up every document your practice has on the patient in one place. There's a smaller chance of missing vital information or asking patients to repeatedly give the same information.
That kind of quick record access has wider applications, as well. With reports about chatbot-patient interactions, healthcare practices can:
- Identify areas that need improvement
- Monitor patient-reported outcomes
- Search logs for frequently asked questions and topics
- Improve staff training
- See how efficient their chatbot is
There's no guesswork about these statistics — only concrete, applicable data that drives innovation and places patients at the center of everything you do.
How Does a Chatbot Actually Do All These Things?
To accomplish this long list of diverse tasks, chatbots are driven by one thing: artificial intelligence. Artificial intelligence isn't just a science-fiction buzzword. It's a real technology that has developed rapidly in recent years.
It basically means that your chatbot learns from interactions over time. While it can be programmed to identify keywords and respond to them appropriately, every patient will ask the same question in hundreds of ways. Chatbots adapt to these variations over time with human-like contextualization.
That's where the "conversational" part of conversational AI comes from. While simple computers receive input and create specific output data, a conversational chatbot recognizes variations in data input such as:
- Different phrases that mean the same thing
- Different contexts (how words mean different things in different settings)
This flexibility makes it possible for one chatbot to do the work of multiple humans. In healthcare specifically, there will always be a need for keen human brains, so chatbots aren't a replacement for that. They're powerful tools that allow healthcare professionals of every level and field to concentrate on a patient-centered care.
Aivo: Your Flexible, Secure Healthcare Chatbot
As a chatbot technology industry leader, Aivo provides chatbots for customer service applications across multiple industries, but we understand the struggles specific to healthcare technology. With our specialized support team, we'll help your healthcare practice implement, troubleshoot and streamline your secure AI chatbot software.
Take a product tour today and free up your staff for a healthier, more efficient practice.