As researchers push the boundaries searching for disruptive treatments, AI is changing how medical practitioners and patients communicate. Though still in their infancy, AI-powered chatbots are poised to reduce doctor visits, reduce medical expenditure, and improve treatment administration in a big way.
Then, hear it from the experts in the field, according to Dr. Matteo Berlluci of Yours.MD, doctor visits will decrease by 60% if chatbots evolve enough to emulate real-life doctors, especially in cases where self-care is sufficient as a treatment course.
If you’re curious to discover how AI chatbots are disrupting healthcare, read this post carefully. I’m going to cover the main types of healthcare bots (with examples), and the benefits bots provide to patients and doctors.
Let’s get started.
Healthcare Bot Basics
Before we dig deeper into the topic, let’s understand what chatbots are exactly.
In simple words, bots are software programs that are designed to communicate like humans. They can be embedded on websites and apps or used as standalone software to resolve user questions.
How do bots work? Users type or speak their requests to bots. Through natural language processing (NLP), bots comprehend each request’s context, map questions to responses in their pre-fed databases, identify an apt response and present it to the user. Additionally, medical bots’ integration with AR technology helps medical practitioners view and understand complex cases in a better way.
The best part about bots is that they handle all of this without human intervention or geographical constraints. By providing on-demand, personalized attention to users, bots improve customer satisfaction and retention rates.
In healthcare terms, bots can provide prompt medical advice, set appointments and medicine reminders, and offer self-care tips in nurses’ absence.
Not only are bots available 24×7, but they are also accessible and amicable as well. Sophisticated conversational chatbots are equipped to handle voice commands, making them a perfect assistant for special needs patients.
As you know, voice search is critical for all industries, including healthcare. If voice-search enabled bots to become mainstream, practitioners could reach patients who use voice searches on Google to look up medical advice.
Another way bots can help healthcare workers is by getting user feedback in a non-disruptive manner. Bots can use surveys and Q&A sessions mid-conversation and collect insights from patients. Using these insights, practitioners can optimize their services and improve customer satisfaction.
Photo by Pexelson
Types of Healthcare Chatbots and Their Application
Now that you understand how chatbots are changing the healthcare landscape let’s look at the main types of bots, with some real-life examples.
1. Informative chatbots
These chatbots provide medical information to users in the form of notifications, pop-ups, and breaking stories. Typically, informative bots also provide round-the-clock customer support, which is why they score over live chat agents in a big way.
For instance, if you search for information about flu symptoms on WebMD, a chatbot will pop up with the latest news about flu treatment and outbreaks in your location.
For example, while reading about cold symptoms on WebMD, you can encounter questions like this from the on-site bot, Ada: “Do you need help with de-addiction? Feel free to speak with one of our experienced mental health professionals.”
Health news websites use informative chatbots to help patients access accurate information about medical topics. Not only do these bots provide information to patients, but they also generate leads for practitioners and help connect patients with the concerned practitioners in their area.
2. Conversational chatbots
Conversational chatbots understand the context of conversations and provide responses based on a user’s intent. However, all conversational chatbots are not built equally. Only bots based on sophisticated algorithms can hold in-depth conversations.
For instance, a Level-1 basic chatbot can only provide pre-configured responses to direct questions. They lack the ability to comprehend tricky, subjective questions or provide follow-up advice.
A Level-2 intelligent chatbot can handle open-ended questions and carry a conversation to completion.
More advanced conversational chatbots look at conversations as a whole. They don’t process sentences in isolation. The higher a chatbot’s maturity level, the more personalized their responses. That’s when chatbot conversations start to mimic human interactions.
3. Prescriptive Chatbots
Although prescriptive bots are conversational by design, they can offer therapeutic solutions over and on top of information and instructions.
One of the best examples of a prescriptive bot is Woebot, which researchers at Stanford University design. It leverages cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to provide mental health assistance to users.
People who suffer from anxiety issues and depression can converse with this bot and treat themselves by reshaping their thought patterns and behaviors.
For instance, Peter suffers from social anxiety and has a chat with Woebot.
First, the chatbot helps the user (Peter) de-stress by letting him know that his behavior is not ordinary. This helps restore Peter’s confidence in himself. Then, the bot provides practical steps to help Peter deal with his situation better.
Prescriptive healthcare chatbots adhere to data protection regulations and are not susceptible to leakage of patients’ private, confidential data fact sheets. These virtual assistants are programmed to provide only medically verified advice to foster user trust.
Chatbots are indeed a valuable tool for patients and doctors alike. They are more than just a trend in the healthcare industry. With a few clicks (or sometimes, a single voice command), they can serve users in distress with near-zero response times.
As AI technology matures and finds wider application in the healthcare industry, I expect bots to become more mainstream and affordable, which will be a blessing for everybody.
Do you have any questions about chatbots or AI in general? Please write them in the comments section. I’ll be back with the answers soon.