How Chatbots Can Revolutionise Healthcare
Chatbots have already made a huge splash in the world of customer care and online marketing, where their ability to provide instant, human-like support 24/7 has revolutionised the way we interact with businesses online.
They’ve even become a regular fixture in the home, where they simplify countless everyday tasks – everything from managing our schedules to answering our questions.
But these qualities that have made chatbots so popular in the commercial world also make them ideally suited to other industries. One such example is healthcare, where round-the-clock assistance and instant access to information would make a huge difference to both patients and carers.
Here are just a few examples of how chatbots could revolutionise the healthcare industry.
- Virtual assistants for patients
Chatbots will never be able to replace the human touch of a nurse or carer. But for people who need 24/7 support, they can help ensure that patients are continuously monitored.
When a carer is unable to be there, the virtual carer is on hand to remind the patient to take their medication, and to monitor their health status. This information can then be automatically sent to carers and doctors, providing real-time reports and updates on the patient’s health.
- Virtual assistants for carers
For nurses and carers involved in domiciliary care, work involves a lot of travelling. Keeping track of a busy schedule, not to mention patient history and medical records, while constantly on the move can be a headache.
This is where a chatbot can help. By acting as a digital assistant, the bot pushes out timely reminders about upcoming appointments, and provides the carer with all the documentation and medical data they need. All the carer has to do is ask.
By delegating these administrative tasks to a chatbot, carers will have more time and energy to focus on their patients, and will be less likely to make mistakes.
- To help schedule doctor’s appointments
Rather than waiting for minutes on the phone to arrange a doctor’s appointment, or using a fiddly online form complete with easy-to-forget login details, patients could simply ask a chatbot via their smartphones.
Chatbots offer a completely new level of user experience, guiding users through once time-consuming processes with a series of simple questions. If you can text or talk, you can use a chatbot.
- As a first port of call for patients
Taking this a step further, chatbots could even be used to help triage patients before they see a doctor. By asking a series of simple questions – just like a receptionist would – the chatbot could offer very basic advice, or pass on relevant information to the doctor prior to an appointment.
The chatbot would use the patient’s input, coupled with their medical history and background, to offer accurate diagnoses and tips. What’s more, chatbots can potentially access unlimited amounts of data from an unlimited number of patients, helping them to reach a level of accuracy and insight that would be impossible for a human doctor.
- As a personal trainer
Whether you are recovering from a serious injury or simply trying to get fit, one of the biggest barriers to progress is ourselves. People often pay good money to a personal trainer not just because of their expertise, but also because of their ability to motivate. People know that they are more likely to make that extra effort if someone is pushing them to.
For those who don’t have the time or inclination to pay for a human instructor, chatbots can provide a convenient, low-cost alternative. Through push notifications and alerts, they can motivate and remind the user when it’s time to exercise. What’s more, they can provide interesting insights into the user’s development, and help them track and visualise progress.
If this gets people moving just that little bit more, or make the process of rehabilitation or training just that little bit more fun, then everyone’s a winner.
Are we ready to trust chatbots?
Perhaps a few years ago, the idea of trusting a machine to handle patient care would have been highly controversial. But in recent years, the technology behind chatbots – artificial intelligence (AI), machines learning, and natural language processing (NLP) – has become so sophisticated that in many cases, interactions with bots are now at a near-human level. In many situations, communicating with a chatbot can be simpler than with a human.
Businesses trust chatbots to interact with their customers and employees. Given the hyper-competitive nature of the commercial world, not to mention the war for talent, this is a huge indication that chatbots are ready to make an impact in other, more sensitive industries.
Public opinion around chatbots is also changing. A few years ago, those who had heard of chatbots would have seen them as no more than a technological novelty. Today, they are an increasingly common feature in the modern home. Over the next few years, this trend will only go one way, suggesting that people will consider non-human interactions as a perfectly normal part of everyday life.
Ultimately, what matters is the quality and speed of the service. This is as true in healthcare as it is in the commercial world.