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Is Your Patient Care Suffering? Here's How You Can Improve It With Conversational AI
Conversational AI is essential for health organizations that want to overcome growing patient expectations and organizational challenges.
Patients are increasingly expecting healthcare on their own terms. From helping in-patients choose from their room service menus to triaging victims of mass casualty events, healthcare providers are increasingly using digital technologies to provide the care patients need–delivered the way they want it.
At the same time, healthcare providers face new challenges in retaining motivated employees. There are constant supply chain issues, and maintaining positive cash flows has become more difficult.
Healthcare occupies a unique place in the post-digital world. It's no longer enough to comply with Electronic Health Record (EHR) mandates. The industry is rapidly approaching the point where it is not enough to invest in social, mobile, analytics, and cloud capacities. Conversational AI is rapidly being recognized as an essential tool for health organizations facing competitive challenges as well as evolving diseases.
What Is Conversational AI?
To understand conversational AI, it's important to understand what conversational AI isn’t. Conversational AI isn’t a chatbot. The terms "conversational AI" and "chatbot" are often used interchangeably because they involve digital technologies activated by the human voice–but not all interactive AI technologies are the same.
Chatbots automate system responses to voice and written queries. They match inputs and outputs, but their functions are algorithm-based, meaning they only offer "canned responses." Chatbots use rules-based programming to follow a script that allows a user to ask a question and get an immediate response. But they don’t have to employ Artificial Intelligence. They tend to have limited usefulness and demonstrable clunkiness and don't fool anyone into thinking they’re talking with a real human being.
Virtual AI assistants are an application of conversational AI. They use Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP), and AI to extract information in a way that anticipates the user's intent. This makes it easy to understand why a script doesn’t bind virtual AI assistants and why they are easy to train. They become more productive with every use, and they can connect to a company's internal systems or applications to trigger any requested information lying within and to offer the best answer possible.
We have identified seven applications of conversational AI that apply to almost any healthcare provider. Many of these applications take the guise of a virtual AI assistant, but these assistants can take on new tasks not tackled by older technologies.
1. Conversational AI for Patient FAQs
"I want to access my medical records."
"Can I move my appointment to next week?
"Can I get a refill for my prescription?
Many healthcare IT departments scale up conversational AI from tools that handle patient interactions. The good news for healthcare providers is that, according to Zendesk, up to 91% of patients actually prefer interacting with conversational AI for routine inquiries.
The advantage of using conversational AI over a website is that patients don’t have to match the terminology used by a site or navigate multiple web pages to get answers to multiple questions.
Conversational AI can provide the right answer to an inquiry even when patients can't pronounce the name of the medication, don't remember their diagnoses, or fail to remember the name of a medical provider. Conversational AI isn’t limited to the English language either. Some systems accommodate 20-100 languages and can be adapted for dispensing vital public health information in times of public health crises, such as how to prevent the spread of epidemic viruses.
2. Conversational AI for Scheduling Appointments
Telephone trees for patient appointments tend to be less than intuitive. These automated systems tend to be inflexible, leading to a frustrated and often angry patient pressing the number for the operator to get the transaction handled by a human operator.
In contrast, conversational AI systems allow for seamless scheduling and rescheduling of appointments with preferred patient providers. They can interact with other key applications to update appointments in real-time, eliminating double booking and scheduling conflicts.
This new technology can also contact patients to remind them of their appointments by text, email, and phone calls, notifying them of any need to bring documents or to follow a regimen before a test.
3. Conversational AI for Medical Triage
Patients often don't know if their symptoms are serious enough to schedule an appointment with their healthcare providers. They search the Internet, imagine they have a dire diagnosis, and add urgency to their requests for medical attention.
Patients may not know the terminology for certain parts of their bodies. Or they may confuse one disease with another, for example, "cold," "COVID," and "flu."
Sometimes, of course, the need for medical care is urgent. But conversational AI can personalize a response to the patient's reported symptoms, prioritizing patients for each provider in the rank of the urgency of medical attention.
When symptoms point to the possibility of immediate escalation, the conversational AI system will recommend immediate care. When symptoms suggest a scenario for watchful waiting, the system will tell the patient what to do until they see their provider.
4. Conversational AI for Promoting Patient Engagement
Dealing with long-term health challenges, for example, infertility can be a nerve-wracking experience for patients. Unexplained symptoms or missing indicators can provoke severe anxiety, leaving patients at the mercy of their healthcare providers.
Patients can interact with conversational AI to track their progress toward their health goals, such as blood sugar control, fertility, or better blood pressure. These systems can remind patients of what they need to do next in complicated treatment protocols and ensure patients stay engaged and motivated in their healing process.
5. Conversational AI for Internal Coordination
It's fair to say that most providers are stretched thin. Doctors and nurses face dozens of tasks before they have even had their morning coffee.
With conversational AI, healthcare providers have immediate access to lab reports, prescription records, and appointment history. There's no more calling the lab to get an update on test results. Various departments can focus on cooperation rather than on catching up.
6. Conversational AI for Post-Treatment Care
The frequency and duration of provider encounters change with the progress of treatment. Once patients are discharged from hospital care, they become responsible for their follow-up care.
However, if a patient misunderstands instructions or forgets prescribed activities, recovery outcomes are placed in jeopardy. With conversational AI, patients can submit details about their post-treatment activities and where they are in their recovery plan. The system can remind the patient of critical actions and notify the physician as needed.
7. Conversational AI for Patient Insights
Conversational AI provides executives and physicians with more macro-level patient insights, allowing them to review patient care throughout the entire practice–not just individual patients. For instance, an outcomes surveillance algorithm might notice that an unusual number of patients are being admitted for diabetic foot infections. It could notice that the patients admitted for diabetic foot issues had difficulty booking appointments with podiatrists, and the healthcare organization could consider hiring more podiatrists.
This kind of analysis also applies to medical assets. The conversational AI program might note long wait times for CT, PET, or MRI and provide the numbers for considering the purchase of new equipment. Similarly, the conversational AI agent could assess patient medical literacy with suggestions for modifying treatment protocols to accommodate the medical knowledge of each patient.
What Is Required for Scaling Up AI?
Rome wasn't built in a day, but not an hour went by when the Romans weren't laying stone.
DRUID’s conversational AI solutions are designed for fast implementation with minimal disruption to caregiver routine. We know conversational AI is supposed to work for healthcare providers rather than the other way around. Our conversational AI is designed so patients get a better patient experience and providers and staff at all levels are relieved of repetitive tasks, freeing them for professional excellence. With conversational AI, healthcare practices can begin paving the way to better patient care.
Interested in learning more about DRUID’s conversational AI solutions? Download this whitepaper!