working with a chatbot

First Look – What’s Up, Bot? Taking Patient Engagement to the Next Level

The Problem

Engaging patients in managing, monitoring, or otherwise participating in their healthcare has been a challenging endeavor for most provider organizations.

The Solution

A bot is a software program that runs tasks or scripts over the internet on mobile devices. Bots come in many categories, including social bots (e.g., Google Assistant and Siri), commercial bots (e.g., Your.MD, Ada, and GetWell Loop), and malicious bots (e.g., spambots and bots that generate dedicated denial of service attacks). Commercial bots are improving patient engagement services. Representative bot services provide medication information, symptom checkers, and physician finders; monitor post-surgical recovery; schedule medical services; support women’s sexual and reproductive health; and provide cancer support services.

In many cases, bots are designed for use with text-messaging interactions (e.g., the retail bot who sees you are online and wants to know if you need assistance), but conversational voice-recognition bots with higher AI capabilities are emerging and will drive improved patient interactions.

Through KLAS’ ongoing research efforts on innovations and emerging technologies, bots are transitioning to the forefront of the emerging patient engagement–technology and consumerism discussions. We believe more advanced healthcare bots will be emerging from the social bots that are provided by Amazon, Google, and Apple.

The Justification

Bots are available 24/7 and require no human intervention. Therefore, they are cost effective and easily accessible by patients. Bot applications may reduce provider costs for supporting follow-up and referral services, managing post-acute care services and transitions, finding in-network physicians, and providing timely treatment-preparation guidance (e.g., colonoscopy support).

As AI and voice-recognition technologies become more powerful and proven, bots will likely become part of the standard patient engagement environment for all providers supporting all modalities of care.

The Players

Several bot solutions have been identified in the media over the last year. Representative solutions and vendors include the following:

Success Factors

As healthcare organizations look at these alluring technologies, here are a few factors to consider:

  1. Make sure any bots implemented by the providers to assist patients are HIPAA compliant.
  2. Enable a workflow pathway for bots that connects to a real human for patient inquiries the bot can’t handle.
  3. Evaluate bots as components of digital call centers that can help reduce labor costs for patient support services.
  4. If you are implementing bots that collect patient symptoms to generate guidance or diagnoses, make sure the medical staff has tested and approved the AI for the solution.

Summary

Bots will continue to evolve using AI and voice recognition to support current text-messaging interfaces and provide engaging patient-support service applications that reduce labor costs while improving patient satisfaction, quality of care, and outcomes. While bots have huge potential for improving patient engagement, they are still emerging technologies that should be thoroughly vetted and initially implemented in controlled environments. Successful bot applications will be integrated into patient-service and -support workflows that result in reduced labor overhead and effective patient interactions.




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