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Chatbots in Healthcare: How are They Disrupting the Industry?


Trinh Nguyen

May 02, 2024

Healthcare Chatbots: How Are They Revolutionizing the Industry?

According to Statista, the global artificial intelligence (AI) health market reached $15.1 billion in 2022 and is projected to soar to approximately $187.95 billion by 2030, growing at 37%. What’s more, nearly half of US healthcare companies are already leveraging AI, resulting in significant cost savings of 5-10%, as reported by TechTarget.

With such rapid growth and adoption, there has never been a better time to explore the vast potential of integrating chatbots into your healthcare system.

So, if you’re curious to learn more about this new trend of chatbots in healthcare, including their advantages, potential drawbacks, and various applications, dive into this blog for comprehensive insights!

What Is a Healthcare Chatbot?

Healthcare chatbots are intelligent aids used by medical professionals and health facilities to provide swift and relevant assistance to patients.

Powered by AI, healthcare chatbots excel in handling basic inquiries, offering users a convenient way to access information. These self-service tools also foster a more personalized interaction with healthcare services than traditional methods like website browsing or call center communications.

Typically, patients can communicate with chatbots through a chat interface on a medical portal or homepage. With chatbots equipped with features like call, text, email, or video conference, users are given more options to contact professionals for help without intervention from human staff. This enhances accessibility and convenience for both patients and practitioners. More on the advantages of healthcare chatbots are below!

Key Benefits of Healthcare Chatbots

The Key Advantages of Healthcare Chatbots

Just like AI transforms many different business cases, chatbots are reshaping the healthcare industry in numerous ways, offering a host of benefits for both healthcare providers and patients/ general users.

  • Round-the-Clock Availability

Healthcare chatbots are designed to assist 24/7, ensuring patients can get support whenever needed. This eliminates the frustration of waiting on hold or having difficulty in scheduling appointments during business hours.

  • Instant Access to Vital Information

Chatbots empower patients with immediate access to crucial information, from nearby medical facilities and operating hours to pharmacy locations for prescription refills. Moreover, they can be programmed to provide tailored responses to specific medical queries, guiding patients through crises or medical procedures.

  • Anonymity

For patients who value privacy, chatbots offer a non-judgmental and confidential platform to discuss sensitive health concerns such as STD inquiries and mental health issues.

  • Personalized Care

Unlike conventional symptom searches, healthcare chatbots deliver personalized guidance, symptom analysis, potential diagnoses, and appointment scheduling. This will help provide a seamless experience for users.

  • Enhanced Patient Engagement

While healthcare professionals can attend to only one patient at a time, chatbots excel in simultaneously engaging and aiding multiple individuals. This scalable approach boosts engagement and gives doctors more time to focus on complex cases.

  • Cost Savings

By automating processes and handling tasks like appointment scheduling, chatbots contribute to substantial cost savings for healthcare centers, benefiting both providers and patients alike.

Main Types of Healthcare Chatbots

Primary Categories of Healthcare Chatbots

Not all healthcare chatbots provide the exact same functionalities. They come in three primary types: Prescriptive, Conversational, and Informative. Each serves distinct roles, varying solutions, communication depth, and conversational styles.

1. Informative Chatbots

Starting with the least intrusive approach, informative chatbots typically offer users advice and support through pop-ups, making them ideal for mental health or addiction rehabilitation services. Equipped with basic AI algorithms, they can deliver pre-set responses to distribute knowledge quickly and effectively.

2. Conversational Chatbots

Conversational chatbots adapt their responses based on user intent, providing contextual assistance. However, not all conversational chatbots are created equal; those with higher intelligence levels can give more personalized interactions by understanding conversation nuances. Powered by Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and Natural Language Processing (NLP), these chatbots mimic human interactions, delivering a more engaging experience.

3. Prescriptive Chatbots

Taking assistance to the next level, prescriptive chatbots answer queries and provide medical advice based on user input. These chatbots rely on advanced NLP algorithms and up-to-date knowledge bases. Nevertheless, it’s of great importance to maintain ethical standards in case they’re used for consulting on sensitive medical matters.

7 Major Applications of Chatbots in Healthcare

Top 7 Uses of Chatbots in Healthcare

Understanding the outstanding benefits of chatbots in the healthcare industry, have you ever wondered how they’re applied in actual cases and disrupt this vital industry?

1. Scheduling Appointments

Patients increasingly prefer the convenience of online appointment booking. Gone are lengthy phone calls or text exchanges to book appointments. Chatbots can streamline the process by gathering basic information like patient preferences, doctor’s availability, and physician schedules, allowing them to schedule or cancel meetings effortlessly.

2. Providing Necessary Medical Information

Chatbots leverage vast healthcare datasets such as the Wisconsin Breast Cancer Diagnosis and COVIDx for COVID-19 to interpret user queries and offer relevant insights based on predefined labels. This saves users valuable time and eliminates unnecessary clinic visits, as chatbots can provide near-accurate diagnoses with minimal input.

3. Manage Insurance Inquiries and Claims

Navigating healthcare insurance claims can be overwhelming, especially during health crises. AI chatbots assist patients in offering step-by-step guidance through the claims process, instantly addressing queries regarding patient coverage, thereby enhancing their overall satisfaction. Plus, personalized reminders can also be applied to ensure no claim goes unsubmitted, alleviating patient stress and streamlining clinic operations.

4. Offering Mental Health Support

For individuals grappling with mental health problems, healthcare chatbots like Woebot and Wysa AI Coach bring invaluable support. The former specializes in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), providing users with guidance through simple conversations. Similarly, the latter employs evidence-based techniques such as CBT, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), meditation, breathing, yoga, motivational interviewing, and micro-actions to enhance users’ mental resilience. While chatbots cannot replace therapists, they serve as accessible and impartial resources for patients seeking support around the clock.

5. Facilitating Medication Refills

Consistency in a medication schedule is vital for recovery, and chatbots ensure patients stay on track with their prescriptions. These intelligent tools not only remind patients when it’s time to refill their medications but also inquire about any challenges they may face in obtaining their prescriptions.

Platforms like Capsule and Truepill have already integrated chatbots to automate prescription refill processes, ensuring seamless experiences for patients. This feature proves especially beneficial in online pharmacy applications, offering hassle-free prescription management with just a few interactions with the chatbot.

6. Collecting Patient Information and Feedback

Healthcare AI chatbots facilitate the collection of patients’ essential personalized health information, including personal details, symptoms, current healthcare providers, and insurance coverage. This data simplifies admission, symptom tracking, direct patient communication, and medical records maintenance. Moreover, patient feedback obtained through chatbots aids clinics in enhancing the quality of healthcare services and refining the patient experience, ultimately contributing to improved healthcare delivery.

7. Instant Response to Queries

The FAQ section is a cornerstone of any healthcare website, addressing visitors’ common queries and concerns. Healthcare chatbots respond instantly to such inquiries, including questions about operating hours, required documentation, payment tariffs, and insurance coverage. Additionally, chatbots serve as a convenient channel for patients to seek assistance with urgent medical concerns or contact a healthcare consultant promptly. By integrating interactive chatbots, healthcare providers empower users to access information and address their inquiries effectively and swiftly.

Many healthcare centers are enhancing their FAQs with interactive chatbots, enabling users to find answers to their questions quickly. This integration will improve user experience and optimize operational efficiency within healthcare facilities.

Challenges When Implementing Chatbots for Healthcare

While the potential benefits of healthcare chatbots are significant, digital entrepreneurs and healthcare leaders must acknowledge and address several challenges to ensure optimal outcomes for healthcare agencies and clients.

Here are some key hurdles to consider:

  • Limited human interaction: The absence of human interaction when using chatbots might cause patients to feel less heard and connected. This may lead to a sense of detachment between patients and healthcare workers. Many patients interacting solely with chatbots for inquiries or appointment scheduling may not feel as personally engaged with the healthcare provider and their team.
  • Financial considerations: Implementing chatbot technology can be costly, especially for healthcare facilities operating on tight budgets. While the return on investment (ROI) for chatbots in the healthcare sector is increasing, it remains an investment that may be more expensive than traditional patient communication methods, such as phone and email.
  • Patient trust and understanding: Some patients may still doubt reliance on chatbots for accurate information, mainly if they are unfamiliar with the technology or skeptical about its reliability. Building patient trust in chatbot capabilities is thus crucial for successful implementation.
  • Privacy concerns: Given the sensitive nature of healthcare data, patients may express apprehension about sharing personal information with AI chatbots. Therefore, it’s imperative to guarantee robust security measures and compliance with privacy regulations to alleviate these concerns.
  • Technical downtime: Technical glitches or downtime in chatbot services can disrupt patient access to critical information and support. Healthcare organizations must have contingency plans in place to guarantee the continuity of care during such disruptions.
  • Information inaccuracy: Chatbots depend on the quality and relevance of the data they are trained on. Outdated or biased data may result in inaccurate recommendations and responses. You should conduct regular updates and rigorous data vetting to minimize this risk.

Despite these challenges, they can be effectively managed through proactive measures. Educating patients on chatbot usage, ensuring alternative communication channels, and prioritizing data security are vital steps toward maximizing the benefits of healthcare chatbots while mitigating potential drawbacks.

Top 4 Healthcare Chatbots

Now you’re familiar with the fundamentals of healthcare chatbots. Let’s dive into some examples of successful AI medical assistance in today’s market for your own reference.

1. Healthily

Healthily, previously known as Your.MD, is a versatile platform offering reliable health information sourced from credible outlets. It functions as an AI-powered symptom checker, available across multiple platforms including iOS, Android, Facebook Messenger, Slack, KIK, Telegram, and web browsers. Moreover, Healthily is a comprehensive resource for locating online medical services, whether it’s pharmacies, test centers, doctors’ offices, or mental health app recommendations.

2. Woebot

As mentioned, Woebot specializes in providing counseling and support for individuals dealing with mental health issues. Through conversational therapy sessions, this AI chatbot assists users in managing stress, anxiety, and depression using evidence-based strategies.

3. Ada Health

Ada Health boasts over 13 million users and 31 million completed assessments, making it one of the most widely used symptom assessment solutions. This health companion app also offers personalized medical guidance and symptom evaluations. After collecting patient data by allowing them to describe their symptoms, Ada’s chatbot leverages a vast reservoir of medical knowledge to provide insights and advice tailored to individual needs.

4. Watson Health by IBM

IBM Watson Health is a renowned AI platform integrating various capabilities such as machine learning and NLP to support healthcare practitioners in decision-making. From data analysis to therapy recommendations and research discoveries, Watson Health empowers healthcare staff with valuable insights and assistance.

Future of Healthcare Chatbots

While the healthcare chatbot market seems crowded, there’s still some reluctance to embrace more advanced applications. This hesitation stems partly from the fact that conversational AI in the medical field is still in its infancy, with significant room for improvement. As technology evolves, we can anticipate the emergence of more sophisticated chatbot medical assistants equipped with enhanced natural language comprehension and artificial intelligence capabilities.

Yet, mere accuracy alone won’t guarantee widespread acceptance of chatbots in the healthcare industry. Given the delicate balance between empathy and treatment inherent in healthcare, future chatbots must strike a delicate balance to truly succeed and gain acceptance.

Looking ahead, medical bots are expected to fulfill several key roles:

  • Constant companionship and real-time monitoring: Chatbots will offer continuous support to patients, monitoring their health status in real time and automatically requesting aid during emergencies.
  • Management of chronic conditions: They will perform well in managing chronic illnesses, mental health issues, and behavioral disorders, providing ongoing assistance and support.
  • Early symptom identification: In critical situations, chatbots will proactively identify symptoms, cross-reference patient’s medical history, recommend appropriate actions, and improve therapy success rates by facilitating early intervention.
  • Virtual assistants for self-care: Virtual assistant chatbots offer prompt medical advice and simplify self-care practices for individuals.

Build Your Successful Chatbots for Healthcare Applications with Neurond

Incorporating AI chatbots into healthcare practices marks a significant advancement, helping elevate patient care, streamline operations, and improve healthcare accessibility.

So, what does this mean for your healthcare business? It translates to reduced costs, minimized downtime, boosted staff morale, and an increased level of care consistency for your patients.

If you’re considering integrating chatbots and automation into your healthcare strategy, it’s essential to craft a comprehensive AI plan and roadmap. In case you’re new to this, don’t hesitate to seek guidance to ensure you’re on the right track.

At Neurond, we can support you all the way. Specializing in developing sophisticated virtual assistants powered by NLP, we can seamlessly integrate them into your website, social media platforms, and messaging apps. With our team of skilled developers, we tailor AI chatbot solutions to meet your unique business needs, providing ongoing support throughout the journey.

Get in touch with us today to kickstart your robust healthcare chatbots.