Chatbots in healthcare may sound like a bad idea but there are good reasons why they’re being considered. Imagine a patient with an illness – say, Jane. Jane has had a persistent cold for the past week. Her doctor has prescribed her a regimen of antibiotics and medicines, a daily check-in for health updates, and scheduled a flu shot as a safety measure. That’s a lot of things to remember especially when you consider that Jane has several other things that she must pay attention to.

Thankfully, her phone functions as a daily alarm – specifically a chatbot who has automated these reminders for her. Now, she never misses a day of her medication and she’s free to focus her mind on other things than the upcoming appointments. This chatbot functions as a digital nurse in the absence of a human one.

This automation of processes has become a cornerstone in development of technology and artificial intelligence. It has affected several industries, including healthcare.

TABIIB takes a look at the role of chatbots in healthcare – what they are, how they work, and how healthcare as an industry can benefit from them.

Chatbots In Healthcare

A chatbot is a software that works as a digitized conversation between your company and the client. Chatbots mimic human speech and tone to engage in a conversation with a prospective client to provide real-time assistance. The healthcare industry is dipping its toes into implementing chatbots on their websites and online portals as well. The automation of chatbots coupled with real-time query resolution means that healthcare providers are slowly understanding just how useful chatbots can be.

These bots can handle a high number of cases and requests simultaneously while being low on operational costs and resources. In the aftermath of COVID-19, many hospitals are working within infrastructural constraints. Deploying chatbots for handling initial patient care can help clinics utilize their existing resources better. 

Benefits

The benefits that chatbots offer are enormous – not just for patients but for providers and other stakeholders, as well.

For one, chatbots can support clinical teams by easing the workload by reducing hospital visits, and tedious readmission processes. Bots can work in place of a professional for online discussion and suggest alternative treatment options and offer basic diagnosis. A diagnosis that can be sufficiently resolved online without the use of a clinician also means that hospitals can focus on other time-sensitive procedures and patients.

Chatbots can reduce hospital costs and ease infrastructural burden by connecting patients with the right doctors. They can also help patients understand their symptoms without wasting time on a hospital visit. Moreover, chatbots can help healthcare providers triage their patients before they come in for a consultation. These bots ask questions about the patients’ symptoms, and compile a report that can produce a sufficient medical history. This gives the doctors a general idea of what to expect when patients arrive for their consultation.

For patients, the benefits that a chatbot offers are:
-less commute time to the doctor’s office 
-easy access to the doctor or at least to medical expertise without the long waiting time
-easy on costs

Now that we’ve taken a look at the benefits, here are a few specific use-cases where chatbots can help.

Automate key administrative processes

Healthcare chatbots can automate several processes such as symptom checking and appointment scheduling. A chatbot can also follow up on appointments, reschedule or cancel them, and send lab reports and results.

Chatbots can also ask questions to help patients understand and check their symptoms. Using questions and responses, the bot can assess the information and suggest if a doctor visit is necessary or not. This creates a win-win scenario for providers and patients. Patients can save on time and money and providers can focus their attention on those who do require urgent care.

Function as point-of-care

Several chatbots are arriving in the market with the purpose of functioning as a touchpoint between patient and provider. Babylon Health has created a chatbot that asks patients to describe their symptoms and suggest ways they can self-treat. It does this by collecting information from various medical sources on the internet.

Another example is Safedrugbot which easily retrieves key information about medications and their ingredients. It also provides safe alternatives to other medications and pharmaceutical remedies.

Help in care management and health tracking

Patients who require medical care on a regular basis can benefit from chatbots as well. For people with chronic conditions, a healthcare provider is key on their treatment journey. However, having a chatbot take care of tracking medication and logging symptoms can ease the workload for the provider.

Chatbots can compile information and provide detailed records of the tracked health conditions and help assess the effectiveness of a particular treatment plan.

I am a writer, covering the sprawling expanse of healthcare, among many other things that I love writing on. I write on healthcare because I want to do my part in informing people about the health industry, When I am not blogging about research and medicine, I enjoy reading, playing squash and backpacking around the world.

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