What is known about chatbots for healthcare? Well, in medical administration, things have changed so much over the last couple of decades.
We now have access to technologies about which the previous generation could only dream. With the currently available technologies whenever you open a webpage it is no longer unusual to see a small chat window opening in the lower right-hand corner. In many cases Internet users may encounter a message announcing, I am Peter or Jane or Susan and how can I help you? Such a phenomenon would have been highly unexpected not so long ago but today people accept it as the way things are done. They will simply proceed to type in their question without stopping to think that they are interacting with an artificial intelligence system better known by some as the chatbot.
All of these positive developments have been made possible by two unique technologies known as machine learning and natural language processing. Because of these important technologies, chatbots are increasingly smarter, highly responsive and when conversing with humans they are uncannily humanlike. Because they are running on sophisticated software systems they have access to huge amounts of data which is available instantaneously. This presents us with superhuman entities which are completely dedicated, reliable, data-driven, alert and always available 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Humans have many faults and they make many mistakes. However, chatbots are never impulsive, lazy, prejudiced and also never careless. This last attribute is especially important in the healthcare industry where people’s lives depend on it.
We are speaking to researcher and CTO Avi Ben Ezra who is involved with SnatchBot, one of the leading chatbots providers in the world today on his views:
How are chatbots expected to influence the healthcare industry?
There is ample evidence all around us of how chatbots are infiltrating every known industry. However, in few other industries is its impact as meaningful as it is in the health care industry.
When healthy, most humans are essentially solitary entities. You will find them on a whole range of social media platforms and they will also explore many other technological distractions. All of this changes when their health is less than perfect. When this happens they want to hear someone reassuring them, they want someone who will convey sympathy and they want someone close by them in whom they can confide. They want someone to understand how they are suffering and also someone who will encourage them to do whatever is necessary to become whole again.
The problem is we are living in a fast-moving society where everything is happening at tremendous speeds. This is an era where people demand instant gratification. They simply do not have the time or the patience to wait for anything or anyone. Once again the perfect solution is the chatbot. These devices are in many instances the perfect solution when assistance and support are required. These chatbots are able to accomplish a variety of tasks especially those things which are normally done by tier-1 patient healthcare professionals. It is surprising how little coding is necessary to add one of these chatbots as a contact on the social media platform which is used by the patient. The patient also has immediate access to the information network which is supplied by the creators of that chatbot.
What else can an AI chatbot do for a patient?
They are different healthcare chatbots available today. Some have interfaces which use voice and some have interfaces which use text as a communication medium. They are already a large number of chatbots providing care which is normally provided by healthcare professionals. One of the areas in which chatbots are frequently used is as symptom checkers. These devices are also able to act as digital assistants and they can provide assistance both to patients and also to healthcare professionals. There are a whole range of specific areas where these chatbots are implemented today. They are especially popular when it comes to the care of the elderly. They are also frequently used by cancer patients and for reproductive wellness in female patients.
What other specific healthcare-related tasks can be provided?
Chatbots have proven themselves completely capable of providing emergency first aid and also first level primary care. According to Ben Ezra, there is so much information available that things can become very confusing specially to lay people. Your average Google search will provide a very large number of responses. There are also many so-called specialists who are openly contradicting each other thereby adding to the confusion. Furthermore, a lot of the information available is sponsored content which is often biased. There are many instances where misinformation is provided and then there are companies that are openly making claims which are false.
This is not the best situation for critically ill patients to face. Furthermore, they simply cannot wait endlessly for a response from a very busy physician. They may not have the energy to plan an emergency visit to a healthcare facility. Once again the perfect solution to these troubling situations is a sophisticated chatbot which has been well-designed and extensively tested. Such a device should have been prepared by programmers with healthcare experience to deal effectively with all kinds of emergencies. When a patient has such a chatbot it can make all the difference as far as quality healthcare is concerned.
Private hospitals in countries like France, the US and UK deploy chatbots to varying degrees. We expect these benefits will only increase over time.
What about the many questions which patients have especially after treatment?
When, a patient has a specific treatment scheduled there is often a whole range of questions on their minds. Having all the answers to those questions is important for a positive mindset. Dealing with all of those questions can be a time-consuming process which can keep a physician busy for a considerable amount of time. This is often the case when it comes to parents who are expecting their first child. They are often in a lot of anxiety and have so many questions on their minds. Once again addressing those issues can require a lot of time and it can keep healthcare professionals occupied keeping them away from other more critical situations. This is another function which can be done very efficiently with a well-programmed chatbot.
Beyond healthcare, what overall benefits do chatbots bring to the world?
Good question. In short: many things, but I will name just a few. Firstly, it can reduce issues related to card fraud: various crime mafias infiltrate call centers and there are huge problems where credit card processing is done by humans, also including identify fraud or theft, and cyberextortion. Secondly, when you consider the carbon footprint of humans: well, if you reduce the number of people travelling by car to an office park, thanks to automation – it helps the environment: reducing carbon and other forms of pollution. Thirdly, payroll taxes – this is an obvious issue, so in Japan, Brazil, France for example, it is the one issue that I always hear business owners talking about: reducing the tax they have to fork out to keep employees at work. Numerous other benefits exist – you can certainly watch this space for more.