Chatbot in medical care
When time is health, how can a chatbot help?
How to solve a problem of self diagnosing with the help of the Internet? What is the impact of new communication technology in the medical field? Can a chatbot replace healthcare professionals and will it ever do? How to spread correct medical information faster than the media does?
These are questions circulating in heads of many healthcare professionals. While some maybe not be easy to answer, this article will review several aspects
- How healthcare professionals are reacting to a chatbot
- What large problems can be addressed with it
- How chatbots are already contributing to a better medical care
The newest trend in customer service – a chatbot is stealing hearts from ones but leaving others suspicious. And as always, one sided coin does not exist. Not even with technology. Especially with technology. Some bots are ingenious and engaging, while others can’t provide simple information without asking to paraphrase it 10 times. It can be the problem of the bot, or a way in adopting it. For this, many serious institutions are not willing to risk and decide to wait for the time when technology will provide more consistent results.
Just that there is no need.
Some companies are not willing to risk, and some do not want to think about it at all. Organizations in certain industries may have a feeling that customers’ information is too sensitive and, therefore, can’t be left to a chatbot. While this is not true. The chatbots market has ways to provide not only extremely secure but also adaptive chatbots. They can be customized even in ways you never imagined before.
But before jumping to examples, let’s go back to the main question- is a chatbot necessary in healthcare? The current situation shows that this question is not answered yet. While chatbots have a huge potential because the demand for medical care increases while there are not enough of professionals to provide help in timely manner, research demonstrates that around 70% percent of physicians believe that a chatbot could be useful with administrative tasks while the same percentage of doctors think that chatbots cannot effectively care for patients’ needs, or can even be harmful if they self-diagnose themself too often. There are mixed opinions out there merging in the belief that chatbot can be not more than a little administrator and forget about the career in healthcare.
But others disagree, a theoretical model was made, proposing how a chatbot can be helpful in diagnosing diseases. There is no unanimous opinion, therefore it would be useful to look carefully into all current and potential opportunities the chatbot can give to a health care institution, before deciding it’s true potential
Starting with technicals.
Chatbots were generally created to give simple information in a conversation-like manner. They are used to reduce customers’ flow from service specialists and to let them focus on more added-value tasks. They can provide fast information 24/7 and talk with numerous visitors at the same time. In medical institutions, the chatbot can sign up the patient for a visit, check for the closest clinic, or provide medical information. Just as an ordinary chatbot would.
But the specifics of the healthcare industry require much more.
When time is health.
Imagine if the patient forgot to come to the visit. It’s not a big deal for the doctor. Maybe even an opportunity to finally relax a bit. But it can be a huge loss for other patients. Extended lines, not enough of time and lack of physicians result in painfully long waiting periods which in some cases can be vital. While we may almost be 100% sure that a patient will not forget a really important visit, an uncountable amount of valuable medical professionals’ time could be saved if no one would ever forget to cancel. Some clinics, especially in the United States, try to deal with this situation by giving penalties up to 70$ for not showing up for the visit.
But things still happen. Therefore it would be extremely useful to find an effective and not expensive way to make people always remember. Here the chatbot can help. It can set alerts to remind about visits, this way participating in a smooth customer flow, where every free space is used or transferred to someone else. On the other hand, it would be bad news for doctors, no more accidental breaks.
Importance of instructions
Another extremely common problem in health care is the lack of discipline. No, not the discipline of institutions, but the one patients have. The miss-use or improper use of drugs not only reduces the effectiveness of the medication but this way prolongs the curing process results in repetitive visits. It is not a secret that at least 50 % of patients forget to take their drugs at least once a month. We don’t have to deliberate on the outcomes of such forgetfulness.
But we can think about reasons to solve it. The doctors still do not have the all-seeing eye of Mordor installed on their tables. They also don’t have time to call every patient at 2 p.m. Sometimes they don’t even have it to explain how important it is to take every pill on time. The only physicians that seem not to have this problem are gynecologists. So without resources, and without physical capabilities how can we control these lazy patients that want everything to be done for them?
Friendly reminders and reinforcements. All people need is only a gentle push to their better health. Chatbots that could be downloaded to every smartphone are ready to do it. Countless benefits can arise only from an everyday reminder to take that pill now and another pill later. More healthy patients would walk around your hospital, not entering it. Less unconsumed, 10 years old medicine would lie in their homemade drug boxes. Many miss-use problems such as resistance to antibiotics can have completely different perspectives for the pharmaceutical industry. We could finally see how the medicine works if taken fully by recommendations. Utopian world, right?
Media would not have such a strong impact on people’s decisions, especially regarding global disasters such as the most recent COVID-19, if chatbots were implemented as personal assistants, and be the first ones to inform people about precautions, risks and symptoms. A lot of panic, misunderstanding and ignorance could be saved when professional voices would reach people’s phones from an official application instead of news portals. In the current situation with a pandemic virus we observed how the media created two distant camps of people with opposite attitudes: one engaging in useless, and even harmful actions like buying masks, and another tired of media tricks and not taking any information seriously. When a real knowledge was starting to spread it was already too late, many stayed with their primal point of view.
And while many physicians still think that the bot is not useful, or even harmful as a medical assistant, it slowly takes over some tasks like giving medication guidance, letting patients check their symptoms independently, examining nutrition, or even answering medical questions. While the mistrust of professionals is understandable, we should consider the impact of order risks too.
Google is my personal doctor, many people can say. Google is my God, a hypochondriac can whisper. When a person has to wait a few weeks or even months for a visit, some illness just passes before the time comes. It is even more useful to consult someone for fast information about the cold than run in the hospital. The problem arises only when the help from the internet is taken in severe cases.
A self-respecting medical care specialist is now nodding sadly. That is what we want to talk about. The content. The Internet is full of things. Useful, proven and not so proven, or even harmful. The problem with the Internet is that everything can seem science approved there. An average person cannot choose wisely what information to follow, and which to laugh at- he needs guidelines. But again, physicians have only 24 hours a day and cannot read articles with the ill patient. We cannot ignore the fact that patients are keen on curing themself and will do so. The situation is too widespread and unstoppable. The only thing doctors can do is try to provide some reliable information on a reliable website. And which place looks most trusting?
The website of the hospital. There even are portars where doctors answer all kinds of questions. But a live human cannot be the hero against the Internet’s dark forces. The internet can consult 24/7, engage with countless people at the same time. A health care assistant cannot. Here again, the chatbot can help. If equipped with true, helpful information it can also free a lot of doctors time because people will not come with minor health issues. It can also be programmed to sense the risks of self-treatment, and send a warning sign to the patient or connect him or her with the specialist for further help.
Sounds a bit like a fantasy tale? Numerous bots are already working on that and collecting positive reactions.
A chatbot called Florence is a digital nurse, giving customers the kind of help they would get from a physical specialist at the time of hospital stay.
Safedrugbot helps doctors to choose which medicine is safe to use for breastfeeding women
Exist chatbots that motivate people to eat healthily in their nutritional coaching process or check on their mental health to catch a grasp of delicate and rarely communicated problems such as depression.
There are even ones who take physicians’ work and consult patients. This is the feature most specialists are not sure about. Therefore, let’s look more closely on how it works.
Some of them can check for connections with real doctors and provide help for patients in a remote area. Communication is no different than the one using messaging apps. The patient which has an app can have a chat or video call with a doctor. There is not a lot of chatbot in it except that AI connects the patient with the assistant most relevant to him based on health history.
Some apps can provide information about a certain disease, for example, cancer. Other chatbots are designed to give answers about symptoms the patients enter into the app. Answers are drawn from a large database backed by medical information. This way a person can get a relatable answer quickly, just as if he were in his doctor’s office, almost. Some questions can’t be answered by the bot (obviously, because it didn’t study 10 years in a specific field). In that case, the patient is transferred to a licensed physician, who will take over the chat and will have all the information the patient provided before. A chatbot called Babylon Health is even approved by UK National Health Service (NHS) as a part of medical service.
Many chatbots work through Facebook Messenger, this way ensuring that patients will get free and dependable information about their disease even without a specific app. They do not need to go to the hospital, and as my mother would like to say going with one virus and coming back with three.
As customer service gets more and more automated health care is slowly joining it. Chatbots promote self-service by allowing patients to manage their appointments faster. Every minute is golden in medical service, in the medical field it means more life and health saved. There are mixed opinions about chatbots consulting patients. Some may think that it is risky to leave consulting about medical problems to chatbot if we look closer we can see that the patient is never left completely alone with a bot. There is always a professional waiting to step in line at any moment. When we consider this topic we should not forget that no matter how educated people are, they will still browse for their conditions. It is the health professionals’ responsibility to provide as trustworthy databases as possible.
If you are considering adopting a chabot, do not hesitate and contact us. We are already working with the healthcare industry and moving on with new projects!