Conversational AI in Healthcare

By Machielle Thomas
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It wasn’t long ago that interacting with a chatbot could be a frustrating experience, often limited to robotic responses and a lack of real understanding. Trying to get someone—or rather, something—to comprehend your healthcare needs through a screen felt more like talking to a wall than getting actual help.

Healthcare, inherently focused on human well-being, has often grappled with the challenge of integrating technology in a way that enhances, rather than impedes, the patient experience.

But the tide is turning, today, conversational AI is stepping up, transforming those once ineffectual exchanges into meaningful dialogues. These advanced systems aren’t just about responding; they’re able to understand and assist with a level of nuance previously unimaginable in digital healthcare interactions.

Truth be told, the healthcare sector is a little behind the curve with conversational AI. Industries such as finance and banking have already been reaping the rewards for some time from applying this technology. Now, healthcare has the opportunity to realize similar benefits by implementing conversational AI solutions with a multitude of user cases that can advance medical care and patient support considerably.

What is Conversational AI in Healthcare?

Before we look at benefits and use cases, we should first understand what it is (and isn’t, for that matter) and how it differs and far surpasses the old-fashioned rule based chatbots.

Conversational Artificial Intelligence is not just a glorified chatbot with some minor upgrades. It represents a quantum leap in capabilities, combining cutting-edge tech such as natural language processing, machine learning, and contextual comprehension, resulting in truly natural and helpful patient interactions.

Unlike the pre-scripted responses of basic chatbots, advanced conversational AI platforms can dynamically understand patient questions, no matter how they’re phrased. By integrating with electronic health records and tapping into vast medical knowledge bases, conversational AI systems can then provide accurate, personalized guidance and support.

Over time, conversational AI continues to learn and improve based on real patient conversations.

This is light years beyond what regular chatbots can offer. When implemented thoughtfully, conversational AI has the power to really change patient experiences and outcomes for the better across the healthcare sector.

How Does Conversational AI Work in Healthcare?

Conversational AI is powered by natural language processing (NLP) and machine learning algorithms working together to comprehend free-flowing patient questions and requests.

Let’s consider this hypothetical patient query:

“I’ve been having bad migraines the past few days. What over-the-counter meds are best for headache relief?”

Rather than just simply scanning for keywords as legacy chatbots did, advanced NLP understands the full context and intent behind the query.

Integrations with health records and medical databases also supply pertinent details, like known conditions and current prescriptions. With all this information accounted for, the conversational AI can provide a personalized response, in this case, suggesting suitable OTC medications considering the patient’s full profile.

This shows how conversational AI goes beyond canned chatbot responses, continuously learning from real patient interactions to enable more natural, productive conversations over time. Once implemented, it has vast potential to enhance engagement and outcomes across healthcare.

Benefits of Conversational AI for Healthcare Providers

Conversational AI presents immense potential to take on repetitive tasks, strengthen patient connections, and enhance diagnostic accuracy. And to be clear, augmenting rather than replacing human-delivered healthcare.

By automating high-volume routine tasks like appointment booking and prescription refills, conversational AI lightens the workload of overtaxed staff. Healthcare providers still maintain responsive support but get to focus their limited human resources on more meaningful patient interactions.

Conversational AI can also improve triaging accuracy. By analyzing patient health records and symptom descriptions, the technology helps better identify the appropriate next steps and care recommendations for each individual. An assessment done solo by an overworked human staff member might lack the thoroughness of their AI counterpart.

Conversational AI assistants additionally have the advantage of being available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Whether answering billing questions at midnight, scheduling post-holiday checkups, or even providing emergency triaging when clinics are closed, conversational AI fills the gaps for on-demand assistance.

Use Cases for Conversational AI in the Healthcare Industry

As we’ve seen, conversational AI delivers immense value. Now, let’s get more concrete. In the following section, we’ll overview specific use cases healthcare providers can implement to improve patient engagement and care coordination.

Automating Appointment Scheduling

As touched on earlier, taking the hassle out of booking appointments is a prime opportunity for conversational AI to demonstrate value.

By integrating with practice management systems, conversational AI assistants can easily check availability, recommend optimal timing based on urgency, and schedule consultations, taking into account openings, patient priorities, and existing bookings.

Natural language responses make these conversations frictionless, so you still get patient satisfaction but without human intervention.

Triaging and Symptom Analysis

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, telehealth consultations with medical professionals became a vital way for providers to continue offering triage support to overwhelmed patient populations. Still, this required human intervention, expertise, and judgment to accurately assess and prioritize patient needs.

Conversational AI in healthcare, while it may not completely replace these human elements at the moment, could significantly augment the triage process.

By rapidly analyzing symptoms and patient inputs, AI systems can assist healthcare professionals in making faster and more informed decisions. They can handle preliminary assessments, identify potential urgent cases, and direct patients to the appropriate level of care more efficiently.

Improving Preventative Care Access

Conversational AI could also be an excellent solution to eliminate (or at least much reduce)some of the common barriers that limit patient access to preventative services like cancer screenings, vaccination catch-ups, and annual wellness visits.

By proactively contacting patients to schedule these services, conversational AI can walk patients through details like preparation needs, insurance coverage, and location logistics. With bookings that match an individual’s availability rather than packed clinic hours, they may more readily complete recommended prevention plans.

Handling Insurance and Billing Inquiries

Let’s be honest – dealing with health insurance plans and medical bills is confusing for most patients. They’re suddenly expected to understand deductibles, co-pays, provider networks, claim forms…the list goes on.

Conversational AI integrated with billing systems can look up details on specific insurance coverage and payment responsibilities in seconds. In plain language, it can clearly explain the next steps needed and guide patients through the often bewildering maze of insurance processes.

And by fielding these mundane and often time-consuming inquiries, healthcare staff have more capacity to focus on patients rather than payments. It may not eliminate insurance headaches completely, but it sure makes them less of a pain for both patients and providers.

These are just a handful of examples that merely scratch the surface of how conversational AI can augment patient and provider experiences – mental health support, patient aftercare, further automating repetitive tasks, and staff onboarding are just a few more examples.

Healthcare’s Conversational Future

Now you’ve seen the breadth of capabilities and tangible benefits, the verdict should be clear – advanced conversational AI systems are indispensable for modern healthcare. As patient expectations for digital healthcare keep rising, natural language conversations that make technology feel human-centric, not impersonal, will become a driving force in medical innovation.Contact Forethought today for a demo showcasing how our conversational AI solution can complement your existing healthcare systems.

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