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Overview: What is the Role of Chatbots in the Healthcare Industry?

Posted in Medical Chatbot

Last Updated | February 8, 2022

Although healthcare was always an important industry, ever since the beginning of the pandemic, it has become increasingly vital for survival.

With 7.9 billion people living in the world and the surging pandemic, healthcare industries are faced with vast demand.

Naturally, the sector requires advanced and efficient tools to cope with the rising demand. Providers are in search of efficient solutions that simplify the process and ease the burden.

From healthcare CMMS software that helps manage assets to telemedicine that connects patients and doctors, the healthcare industry has seen several advancements over the past decade.

The use of artificial intelligence in healthcare makes healthcare easily accessible to patients in an emergency, regardless of where they are located.

Thanks to healthcare chatbots, missing appointments, forgetting to take medication, and not being able to reach out to a practitioner are now a thing of the past!

AI has the potential to revolutionize this industry, minimizing labor costs while providing accurate diagnoses in just a matter of seconds!

Let’s learn about the role chatbots play in the healthcare industry.

Top Advantages of Chatbots in Healthcare

The use of chatbots in the healthcare industry has huge benefits, not just for practitioners, but also for patients, and other stakeholders.

Doctors try their best to be available to their patients, but under certain circumstances, they might not be able to dedicate enough attention to each of their patients.

It is impossible to cater to every single patient because doctors are commonly on a tight schedule.

Thanks to medical chatbots, the workload of doctors is reduced.

Chatbots are programmed to help patients throughout recovery, making them an excellent solution for doctors with tight schedules. The best part is, chatbots are available 24/7.

A chatbot helps patients in several healthcare-related tasks. For example, it notifies users to take their medicines on time, gives users tips to maintain their health, and provides vital medical information.

Some chatbots with Epic EMR Integration can make accurate diagnoses by fetching medical information and making comparisons.

This technology helps reduce hospital visits, unnecessary treatments, and minimize hospital admissions and readmissions by assisting patients with their symptoms.

Here are some ways that chatbots benefit patients:

  • Help save time that they would have spent, traveling to a hospital
  • Minimize unnecessary costs spent on tests and treatments
  • Reaching out to a doctor in less time

HL7 Integration allows doctors to access medical records in seconds.

Through healthcare chatbots, doctors can easily access a patient’s medical records, prescriptions, and check-ups instantly which is crucial in emergencies where every second takes a toll on the patient’s life.

Most healthcare providers invest heavy sums to create websites where patients can learn more about their medical conditions.

But what good will a chatbot do if the patient cannot look up a solution for their problem or reach out to a doctor when they need to?

This is where chatbots jump in and save the day! Although they can’t replace doctors, a chatbot can assist patients in assessing symptoms and suggest solutions to their problems.

Top 5 Uses Chatbots in Healthcare with examples

How are chatbots used in the healthcare industry? Here are the top 5 ways:

  1. Schedule appointments:

Telemedicine software development has changed the traditional way of scheduling an appointment. Patients can reach out to chatbots to schedule appointments, and in some cases, bots can assign patients to relevant doctors.

Integrating a chatbot with other apps can allow them to create slots in both the patient’s and the doctor’s calendar, depending on the availability of the practitioner.

Next, they send emails to both the doctor and the patient as a reminder for the appointment. This makes scheduling appointments much easier, reducing the stress and effort involved!

  1. Symptom assessment:

The pandemic has forced people to stay indoors because hospitals are full of patients suffering from extreme symptoms of COVID.

In this case, traveling to the hospital for symptom assessment and diagnoses is a threat to the patient’s life.

Undeniably, bringing a patient to the hospital in the case of an emergency is crucial to saving their life. But if symptoms are not as severe, going to the hospital is not just a waste of time for the doctor, but might also be costly for patients.

There are two ways through which chatbots can assess a patients’ symptoms:

  • Asking the patient questions
  • Evaluating the medical history of the patient

The best part is, chatbots store the patient’s information and details. This eliminates the need for entering details every time the patient visits the website.

  1. Providing relevant information:

It is common for patients to reach out to a doctor repeatedly to ask the same questions. This is inconvenient for doctors with tight schedules, hence, having a chatbot to answer such questions can be convenient for practitioners.

Chatbots are a useful way of reducing repetitive calls and answering repetitive questions.

From the doctor’s perspective, they can access vital medical information for everyone, enabling them to make more accurate diagnoses.

Through medical diagnostic software, accessing patient data and diagnosing patients becomes much easier!

  1. Coverage and claims:

Healthcare chatbots often help patients who ask to check their existing coverage, track the status of a claim, or file for a new claim.

Bots can help them easily access relevant information in less time. On the other hand, they also help doctors with their queries and accessing patient information.

It allows them to cater to their patients’ queries, and other requests easily.

  1. Therapy Bots:

Every telemedicine software development company has developed mental health apps where bots conduct therapy sessions, providing patients with essential tips to monitor their symptoms.

They are not a replacement to licensed professionals, however, when it comes to helping people with medication and symptom assessment, they are a convenient solution.

Some bots are even equipped to conduct CBT (cognitive behavior therapy) to some extent.

Types Of Chatbots in Healthcare

Top healthcare IT companies must determine the type of chatbot that would most effectively chat and engage with users.

The right chatbot must be able to identify the intent of the user and what help the user requires. This helps determine what kind of chatbot will be able to achieve these goals.

The three main types of chatbots that dominate the healthcare industry today are: informative, conversational, and prescriptive.

Each of these types provides different types of solutions to users, has different styles of communication, and has different communication abilities.

  • Informative Chatbots

Informative chatbots are designed to provide helpful information to users. They are programmed to provide customer support and automated information in the form of alerts, pop-ups, and breaking stories.

Several healthcare-related websites feature chatbots where if you look up a certain illness, chatbots may pop up, providing information on treatment and outbreaks near you.

However, to ensure the website achieves its intended goals, the healthcare UX design needs to be considered.

Another example is health news websites where pop-ups might help access more detailed information on a related topic.

For instance, if you’re reading about a flu outbreak, a pop-up might appear saying: “Do you need help assessing your flu symptoms?”, or “Is it just an allergy, or is it COVID-19?”

  • Conversational Chatbots

Most healthcare app development services would agree that conversational chatbots are the hardest to develop!

Conversational chatbots are designed to respond to users after detecting the user’s intention. However, not all bots are equipped to respond with the same level of depth.

The varying levels of maturity respond in different ways. For example, a Level 1 maturity bot will give automated responses to users’ questions without inferring what the user means.

A Level 2 maturity bot is equipped with advanced tools to follow the conversation and respond to the user even if he/ she continues with further questions.

But bots with higher intelligence and maturity levels do not need the support of pre-programmed responses.

Such bots can look at the conversation from a holistic perspective instead of deducing meanings sentence by sentence.

When the intelligence level of a bot is increased, the responses begin to resemble human interactions.

Conversational bots are developed using NLP (Natural Language Processing) which gives them the ability to process human language and engage in conversation with a human.

Developers need to look out for HIPAA compliance for software development when developing conversational chatbots because the privacy of users needs to be protected at all costs.

  • Prescriptive Chatbots

Prescriptive chatbots take NLP (natural language processing) a step further. Equipped with conversational capabilities, these chatbots are equipped with tools to offer users therapeutic solutions!

Several chatbots are designed to conduct cognitive-behavioral therapy to some extent, offering mental health assistance to users.

One example is Woebot, designed by Stanford University. Patients with depression, anxiety, or other mood disorders can converse with this chatbot for treatment and solutions to cope.

The key to developing effective chatbots is to know your audience and be aware of what suits them best.

One of the most important aspects to consider when developing prescriptive chatbots is data privacy.

It is crucial to consult healthcare compliance services just to be sure your bot is compliant with HIPAA and other data protection acts.

Top Health Chatbots

Several types of chatbots exist today. Some of the common ones are:

  • Hospital appointment chatbot
  • Nurse chatbot
  • Clinical chatbot
  • Chatbot for health insurance

Here are some chatbots that dominate the healthcare industry today:

Healthily:

Healthily is designed to make the most likely diagnoses based on the symptoms provided by the user.

Based on machine learning models, the app provides near-accurate diagnoses along with information about symptoms.

The bot is also designed to provide users with evidence-based solutions and useful tips to deal with these symptoms.

The best part is, Healthily can also be used to make doctor appointments through the information provided by local health service providers. For instance, information on clinics and diagnostic centers.

Ada Health:

As a diagnostic tool, Ada health has attracted millions of users. It is commonly used as a standard diagnostic tool depending on the symptoms they input.

The bot inputs user answers into a dataset of similar inputs and medical cases.

This allows Ada health to make the most accurate diagnoses, and solutions relevant to the user’s symptoms.

Ada does not just provide information on conditions, symptoms, solutions, and medications, but also helps patients find the nearest healthcare providers.

Babylon Health:

As a telehealth-related chatbot, Babylon health offers consultations with virtual doctors, real doctors, and even chatbots.

Again, HIPAA risk assessment services play an integral role in protecting users’ privacy and sensitive medical information.

Just like Ada health, this bot also inputs the users’ symptoms into a database of hundreds of similar conditions.

Next, the patient is provided with several possible diagnoses that fit the mold. Additionally, steps to undertake to deal with the problem are also listed.

The bot is also equipped with natural language processing and speech-recognition capabilities, allowing the bot to understand speech and text.

Future Of Chatbots in Healthcare

Chatbots are the future of healthcare! From reducing the human effort to making healthcare easily accessible to patients, the advantages of healthcare chatbots are limitless!

But despite the benefits of chatbots in the healthcare industry, several providers are reluctant to adopt AI, especially the more evolved cases.

This is because conversational chatbots still lack several features that are integral when it comes to providing healthcare services.

More sophisticated chatbots are set to emerge as the understanding of language processing increases, and artificial intelligence technologies evolve.

This advancement is bound to increase the accuracy and relevancy of chatbots, however, the successful adoption of healthcare chatbots still has a long way to go!

Human empathy plays an instrumental role in providing healthcare solutions to patients. This needs to be combined with machine intelligence to overcome today’s healthcare challenges.

It is predicted that healthcare chatbots will be able to achieve the following functions in the upcoming years:

  • Help manage mental health illnesses, behavioral and mood disorders
  • Identify symptoms, make diagnoses, check patient’s medical history, and provide information on nearby healthcare facilities
  • Provide medical advice and tips to maintain a healthy lifestyle
  • Monitor the status of a patient in real-time, provide real-time updates to doctors and patients.

Something as sensitive as developing healthcare chatbots requires extensive planning and care. Companies will have to think beyond technology.

How To Develop a Medical Chatbot App?

Developing a medical chatbot app can be a challenge for someone who has no experience in the field.

The following steps can be used to develop a HIPAA compliant, easy-to-use medical chatbot:

Step 1: Design Conversation Pathway

Go back about 10 or 15 years and you’ll see that the primary mode of communication was text messaging, whether one wanted to connect with friends, loved ones, or even business partners.

Surveys have revealed that an average person has at least 3 messaging apps on their phone. This is self-explanatory since messaging is a convenient way of staying in touch with everyone.

However, even with text messaging, several unspoken rules are followed. For instance, tone, speed, and context are a few aspects that one is always conscious of.

Similarly, when developing conversational chatbots, developers must take these factors into account to ensure the patient at the other end is engaging with a productive and effective bot.

A ‘productive’ conversation requires cooperation which will ensure the conversation heads in a direction where both parties can achieve a common purpose.

Understanding the patient’s intention is pertinent to achieving this common objective and ensures that conversations flow freely.

EHR data integration might be a good idea when developing medical apps because this way bots can make more accurate diagnoses by accessing patient data.

Step 2: Choose the Right UI

Artificial intelligence has changed the way we interact

Chatbots have the potential to revolutionize every industry, from businesses to media and even automobile industries. Healthcare is no exception!

This technology has made it easier for businesses to offer efficient and effective customer service to their clients. From the client’s perspective, it has become easier to reach out to businesses to acquire information.

However, not everyone views chatbots as a convenient option. Humans assess processes based on how straightforward they are.

Hence, instead of judging their interaction with bots based on the outcome, people tend to rate conversations based on how easy they were.

This makes UI (user interface) crucial in developing chatbots.

Once developers have decided what type of bot they are going to develop, they come up with a graphical interface, gestures, and voice interactions. These depend on the level of machine learning.

Step 3: Fuse the Best of Human And AI

Adding a bit of the human element to bots can take interactions with AI to the next level! When patients walk through healthcare sites, they are usually in search of quick responses.

Patients wish to interact with agents in real-time which influences the level of customer satisfaction.

Chatbots on their own have been able to drive up their customer support experiences, however, in some cases, they have had the opposite effect.

Although today, chatbots are equipped with all sorts of tools needed to make accurate diagnoses, a doctor is still required to reach an accurate diagnosis, especially when complex symptoms are presented to the bot.

In situations where the bot detects an emergency, they immediately refer the patient to a practitioner.

This makes it possible for hybrid bots (ones with both human intellect and AI intelligence) to reach superior outcomes.

Step 4: Use Rasa NLU for Intent Classification and Entity Extraction

Chatbots need to be developed in such a way that interactions seem as natural as possible.

This is only achievable through natural language processing tools that allow the bot to understand the context of conversations.

What is Rasa NLU? The open-source library allows bot developers to classify intent, generate responses, and design chatbot conversations.

The NLU library breaks down the user’s sentence to make it simpler for the bot to understand the intent behind what is being said.

Rasa core predicts what the best action will be to the what the patient has just said.

Step 5: Add HIPAA Compliance

Most importantly, don’t forget about HIPAA compliance when developing a healthcare chatbot application.

The United States set the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in 1996 which sets regulations on how sensitive healthcare data is to be used, handled, and stored.

HIPAA classifies health information that needs to be protected in the following categories:

  • Patient’s details: name, address, date of birth
  • Patient’s health status: their medical and mental health condition
  • Health service the patient has received in the past or is currently receiving
  • Information for payments that could be used to identify the patient

Healthcare app developments must be HIPAA compliant and protect the privacy of their users.

How Much Does It Medical Chatbot Cost?

When developing any custom mobile application, the cost incurred is usually estimated to be around $48000 to $64000. The final cost comes down to how advanced your application is.

For instance, using ML algorithms in a mental health app or medical device integration is likely to drive the cost of app development to the pricey side.

The price will go up or down depending on whether you are planning to integrate your application with existing software.

For example, several app developers use Cerner hl7 integration to enhance the functionality of their apps.

Our Experience in Chatbot Development for The Healthcare Industry

At Folio3, we are fortunate to have engaged in numerous custom chatbot projects which have provided us with opportunities to learn and gain experience in the field.

Some of our recent projects include:

  • NeuroPlan:

The app is designed to identify and implement healthy lifestyle behaviors that improve brain health and reduce the risk of developing illnesses such as Alzheimer’s.

It is constructed around factors such as genetic, lifestyle, and medical to prevent mental illnesses and maintain overall health.

  • Ecare vault:

The app is based on the motive to provide excellent healthcare to the elderly, children, or loved ones who are incapable of taking care of themselves.

The portal allows users to manage children’s healthcare and educational requirements.

  • Thrive:

Thrive is a mobile application designed to cater to the unique needs of autism patients. Its user-friendly interface, ability to customize photos and update schedules are some of its not-worthy features.

The application is designed for children, allowing them to update schedules, times, and locations using any device available.

Are You Ready to Build Your Healthcare Chatbot App for Folio3?

Our custom healthcare software development company works as part of our client’s team, gathering their feedback and understanding their requirements to bring the healthcare app that they envisioned to life!

We are proud to offer some of the most innovative healthcare app development services in the US, giving you a tailored experience suited to your needs.

With our excellent design strategies, integrations, and compliance with HIPAA, we provide our clients will all the resources to build their very own healthcare solutions.

FAQs:

How is Chatbot for Healthcare delivering a Better Patient Experience?

Chatbots can be programmed to provide patients with the option of booking appointments with a doctor directly.

They’re also an excellent way of acquiring information from visitors and then personalizing their experience to provide services relevant to them. This allows doctors to build a good rapport with their patients without communicating with them directly.

How are intelligent healthcare chatbots being used in 2022?

Here are some ways chatbots are being used in 2022:

  • Symptom assessment
  • Booking appointments
  • Therapy sessions
  • Connecting with doctors
  • Finding solutions to healthcare problems
  • Dealing with customer queries

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