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Virtual Healthcare: How Is Conversational AI Changing the Game?
Conversational AI improves patient experience and care delivery by enabling a smooth digitally-driven journey and by building trust in the medical system.
In recent years, digital transformation has evolved from being a buzzword to an essential requirement for adapting to changing future conditions in every industry, including healthcare. The COVID-19 pandemic significantly accelerated shifting consumer preferences and care-delivery innovation, emphasizing the need to prioritize convenience and access to care.
Although healthcare has changed more slowly than other sectors, it cannot remain immune to this phenomenon. Today's consumers expect fast, seamless, and convenient digital experiences, including when it comes to healthcare. Patients are more knowledgeable and seek support and information via digital channels. They demand a seamless experience with every interaction and want to digitally manage their medical data and journey. Conversational AI technology helps healthcare providers keep up with patient demands and lets patients control their healthcare experience, from scheduling appointments to making payments online. Providing a positive and consistent patient experience is how healthcare systems can distinguish themselves and meet patients' expectations beyond the pandemic.
For healthcare institutions, digital transformation can lead to becoming more consumer-friendly. A Deloitte study found that 92% of health system representatives aim to achieve better patient experience through digital transformation. By adopting a consumer-centred, outside-in approach, they look to designing processes and experiences from a consumer's perspective to build trust and loyalty, improve patient experience, and enhance newer forms of care delivery using digital technology. Simultaneously, technology can also improve internal operations, streamline processes, and increase productivity. As a result, we can expect more innovative uses of conversational AI in healthcare, transforming how we approach healthcare and improving patient outcomes. According to a Grand View Research report, the global market size for AI in healthcare is expected to reach $31.3 billion by 2025, with a compound annual growth rate of 41.5% from 2020 to 2025.
What Does Conversational AI Support Look Like in Healthcare?
Patients today are increasingly open to using a virtual assistant to find information quickly and easily – 64% of consumers say they find 24/7 service the most helpful chatbot functionality. As noted before, increasingly, customers expect round-the-clock access to personalized, individual information. Offering this type of experience is time- and cost-intensive to cover with human teams. Enterprises have successfully leveraged conversational assistants to automate the response to FAQs and resolve routine, repetitive tasks. A well-designed conversational virtual assistant can reduce the need for human intervention in such tasks by as much as 80%. Conversational AI-powered chatbots can facilitate patients' access to their data, medical history, test results, and payment and billing details. There are considerable advantages in implementing a chatbot to answer these questions: time savings for the internal team and the customer, higher client satisfaction levels, and an overall simplified and accessible customer experience.
Intelligent healthcare virtual assistants can also be trained specifically to help answer the most frequent questions that patients tend to have. Often, patients have important queries to which they want immediate answers, but they are not complex enough to warrant a conversation with a staff member. In fact, many would prefer finding the answers themselves, especially if they can do so at any time, whether night, day, or weekend. 74% of Internet users prefer using chatbots when looking for answers to simple questions.
In many cases, these questions are also repetitive and revolve around common issues. While staff can undoubtedly answer these questions, it's not necessarily the best use of their time. Conversational AI agents can be used instead to address inquiries such as "What time does the clinic open?" or "How should I prepare for my scan?" A conversational chatbot can answer these questions quickly, correctly, and conversationally, saving patients the trouble of searching through a lengthy FAQ section for the needed information.
Appointment scheduling is a critical operation in healthcare facilities but can be a time-consuming operation. Conversational AI systems allow patients to easily schedule, reschedule, or cancel appointments without the frustrations of a complicated interface or waiting times in a call centre. These systems can integrate with other existing applications and update appointments in real-time to prevent scheduling conflicts. Conversational AI can also provide appointment reminders and additional important information, such as whether patients need specific documents or assistance after a procedure. Overall, conversational AI improves patient satisfaction by reducing wait times and simplifying appointment scheduling.
Patients today prioritize convenience, speed, and ease of access when seeking answers to their health-related questions. Instead of calling a call centre or scheduling a discussion with a medical practitioner, they often prefer to use their mobile phones to solve the problem independently. Google has become the go-to resource for health-related queries, accounting for 5% of all searches on the platform. However, this process can be unreliable and lead people to schedule appointments with the wrong specialist.
Conversational AI can be used for symptom checking and medical triaging to provide personalized care. These systems guide the patient through a series of questions and allow them to input their symptoms for a quick and accurate diagnosis and then schedule an appointment with the appropriate specialist.
Conversational AI can be used for health tracking by providing patients with an intelligent virtual assistant to collect and analyze their health data. For example, a patient with diabetes can use a conversational AI assistant to track their blood sugar levels, insulin dosages, and other related metrics. The assistant can provide personalized feedback on managing their diabetes, such as suggesting lifestyle changes or adjusting medication dosages. It can also remind patients to take their medication and schedule follow-up appointments with their healthcare provider.
Healthcare chatbots not only provide patients with valuable information but also collect important feedback that can improve the overall quality of care. This feedback is crucial to the success of healthcare providers. By requesting a rating of the conversation, chatbots can collect data at scale and share it with appropriate stakeholders to improve future interactions. Negative feedback can be used to inquire further about the user's dissatisfaction and request additional information. Ultimately, user feedback collected by chatbots can help healthcare providers improve their services, enhance the patient experience, and provide better care.
Patient Interaction and Engagement
The patient journey does not end at the moment when the care service was delivered – instead, it includes a before and after. Seeing how trust is the underlying requisite for success in this field, building a long-lasting relationship between healthcare institutions and patients is crucial. Understanding the context and leveraging digital tools can ensure patients receive the necessary care. For example, patients in post-treatment may have infrequent doctor visits but may need help following their post-care plan. Misunderstanding instructions or forgetting to perform specific actions can hinder recovery. Conversational AI can fill the communication gap by allowing patients to provide information on their post-care actions and track their progress while receiving reminders for critical actions.
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Internal Healthcare Staff Support
Conversational AI can equally play a significant part in streamlining internal day-to-day processes to increase productivity, efficiency, and, ultimately, the quality of the healthcare act. Healthcare workers, in particular, have numerous tasks to complete daily and little time to do so.
Conversational AI technology offers healthcare staff access to vital information, such as a patient’s medical history, lab reports, prescribed medications, and upcoming appointments, without having to spend time searching for it. This saves time and allows medical workers to concentrate on more crucial tasks. Additionally, this technology reduces team interdependence since staff members can instantly access the required information instead of waiting for responses from other parts of the organization.
Healthcare facilities face an endless stream of daily administrative tasks that need attention. However, these tasks are not always completed efficiently. Employees often switch between different applications, search for forms, or contact various departments to do their job, wasting time and causing frustration. Conversational AI provides a solution by allowing employees to submit requests, send updates, and track statuses in the same system and through natural conversations. This simplifies the process and saves time. Additionally, conversational AI can automate and streamline the patient onboarding process, prescription requests, and updates to patient information.
Conversational AI is set to revolutionize the healthcare industry by improving patient experiences. AI-powered chatbots enhance the quality of healthcare services, recognize patterns, and save time, complementing medical professionals and their empathy. At a moment when the healthcare industry around the world is under pressure from a difficult economic environment, rising costs and changing patient preferences, using conversational AI can help health service providers offer better patient outcomes, personalized care, and increased efficiency. AI-driven transformation is leading to the next step in the evolution of the healthcare industry – and the results will positively transform patients’ experience.