In 2022, healthcare is arguably the most important industry there is. And patients need quick access to health information and medical facilities. AI in healthcare is quick and easy to ensure that your customers have all the necessary information they need in the event of an emergency. AI in healthcare includes Machine Learning interfaces that can be used to cut down on the human labor to easily access, analyze and provide healthcare professionals with a list of possible diagnoses in a matter of seconds.
Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare can bridge this gap. Virtual assistants are an amalgamation of AI that learns algorithms and natural language processing (NLP) to process the user’s inputs and generate a real-time response. AI in virtual assistants provides human-like responses. Thus, virtual assistant technology is revolutionizing healthcare.
What are Virtual Assistants in the Healthcare Industry?
AI-powered healthcare virtual assistants can deftly handle simple tasks so that skilled medical professionals can use their time to effectively manage more complex jobs that they have been trained for.
The job of medical virtual assistants is to ask simple questions, for example, have you been experiencing symptoms such as fever, cold, and body ache? Are you feeling short of breath? How long have you been experiencing the symptoms? etc.
By analyzing the inputs given by the users, the virtual assistant will then provide solutions via voice or text, such as getting sufficient rest, scheduling doctor’s appointments, or redirecting to emergency care.
Virtual assistants in healthcare are still nascent; however, they are expected to snowball by 2029. Based on a report published by Global Virtual Assistants in Healthcare Market – Analysis and Forecast, 2019-2029, the revenue for the medical virtual assistant market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 26.29% between 2019-2029.
Benefits of Healthcare Virtual Assistants
The importance of AI-powered virtual assistants in the healthcare sector has gained prominence as bots provide numerous benefits like:
- Reduced waiting times: Virtual assistants in the healthcare system prevent long hospital queues by providing patients with instant answers.
- Massive reduction care costs: Virtual assistants help to significantly reduce business overheads of manning the desk or call centers.
- Timely medical advice: Care virtual assistants help provide instant information, which can save a person’s life at the time of a crisis.
- Ease the burden on doctors: It is nearly impossible for doctors to attend to all patients on a tight schedule, whereas medical virtual assistants are accessible 24*7.
- Anonymity: AI-powered medical chat is designed to maintain an individual’s anonymity which is beneficial for sensitive cases.
- Timely monitoring: A healthcare virtual assistant can help monitor a patient’s health, suggest treatment, or give follow-up reminders.
- Real-time interaction: Virtual assistants provide immediate responses and changes the response, depending on the input, just like real-time interaction with a doctor.
- Scalability: Virtual assistants can seamlessly handle numerous customers without compromising the quality or adding to the cost.
- Patient satisfaction: A healthcare virtual assistant safely provides timely and intelligent solutions, which, in turn, increases patient satisfaction.
Challenges that Virtual Assistants can Solve for Better Healthcare
Technology has flowed slowly in almost every aspect of patient care, and healthcare virtual assistants are promising. They can readily tackle challenges faced by the healthcare sector, like:
- Healthcare bots can save valuable time. For example, your patients can communicate their symptoms through messenger and get a live consultation without spending too much time booking appointments or visiting your facility.
- Virtual assistants can improve patient and doctor engagement. For example, a medical virtual assistant can be helpful for your patients who may not be able to use complicated healthcare apps. Still, they can quickly and freely talk to the virtual assistant to discuss their health concerns.
- Virtual assistance technology in healthcare is becoming increasingly realistic by using algorithms to detect emotions using natural language processing. In addition, image recognition is being used to process images, handwritten scripts, and QR barcodes. These features can give quite a well-rounded picture to the virtual assistant, enabling it to perform more accurately.
Key Use Cases of Healthcare Virtual Assistants to Transform Medical Care (with Examples)
Virtual assistants in the healthcare industry undoubtedly has great potential in transforming the overall healthcare sector as they can assist in the following tasks:
- Schedule appointments
A healthcare virtual assistant can easily help you overcome the problem of managing appointments. It acts as a conversational agent to your patients to schedule an appointment with the relevant doctor in your facility.
Medical virtual assistants have an interactive and easy-to-use interface; this helps create an engaging conversation with your patients and ask them one detail at a time. On the other hand, with an OTP verification system, virtual assistants can ensure that only verified users schedule appointments in your facility.
78% of physicians believe that a medical virtual assistant can be extremely helpful for booking their appointments. On the other hand, integrating a virtual assistant with the customer relationship management system can benefit you in readily tracking the scheduled appointments and follow-ups.
- Answer FAQs
Incorporating an interactive medical virtual assistant on your website is a valuable method for your patients to fetch medical information quickly. Healthcare bots are capable of handling common queries like:
- How should I care for my condition?
- What paperwork is required for the treatment?
- What are the payment rates for the treatment?
- How much medical cost will be covered by the insurance?
Based on the format of common questions and answers, healthcare bots use AI to identify the most appropriate response for your patient in a matter of seconds. You can employ an FAQ-based virtual assistant primarily on your website so that your patient can get a quick and straightforward answer.
- Share crucial health information
Public health organizations may use a patient virtual assistant to circulate crucial health information regarding pandemics or vaccines. For example:
- During the COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare industry created thousands of virtual assistants to help users navigate the pandemic. WHO launched one to help keep misinformation at bay, quickly reaching 12 million people within the first months of its launch.
- Creating and updating virtual assistants with the latest scientific information for vaccines also helped effectively reduce vaccine hesitancy among individuals.
- Sets vaccination reminders
When someone is responsible for vaccinating the population, ensuring that the vaccines reach all the individuals in need is essential. It is possible to face difficulties in distributing vaccines, communicating with the citizens, and reporting and tracking their performance in this process.
With virtual assistants, users are no longer required to jump through hoops for calling or visiting the hospitals or checking emails. Virtual assistance technology in healthcare can be beneficial as it puts everything in one place and delivers a smoother patient experience.
Users can easily schedule vaccination appointments themselves with a virtual assistant, saving your expensive human resources. In addition, they also receive reminders for their confirmed and follow-up vaccination appointments.
- Triage and Locating Healthcare Services
When individuals read up on their symptoms online, it can become challenging to understand if they need to go to an emergency room. An alternative to Googling is triage virtual assistants.
Through triage virtual assistant, your patients can enter their symptoms, and the virtual assistant will ask several questions in an orderly fashion. Triage virtual assistant will not diagnose the condition or replace a doctor but suggest possible diagnoses and the exact steps your patient needs to take.
76% of healthcare professionals believe that virtual assistants can help locate health clinics, as the main idea of this virtual assistant is to help its users understand where to find help in case of an emergency.
- COVID-19 and Other Public Health Concerns
Currently, too much misinformation abounds several common public health concerns, such as COVID-19. Therefore, several institutions developed virtual assistant systems to ensure that individuals receive correct information and help save patient lives.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USA, had developed a healthcare virtual assistant called “Clara” specifically to share COVID-19 data, offer emotional support, and suggest medically appropriate behavior.
- Symptom Assessment
Virtual assistance-based symptom checkers have been available as mobile applications for several years. This technology is hugely beneficial for your patients trying to understand the cause of their symptoms.
An example of an AI-powered symptom checker is “Symptoma,” which helps users obtain a step-by-step diagnosis of their problem when they enter the symptoms. Such symptom checkers also impart health tips and related articles to their users.
- Automated customer service with 24×7 support
Now more than ever, people demand a quicker solution to their medical problems. Thus, the healthcare industry is constantly faced with medical emergencies that need to be attended by a doctor.
Bots in the healthcare system are deemed most helpful to this puzzle as they keep their patients engaged 24×7 and provide quick assistance.
- Collecting Patient Data and Feedback
An essential use of a hospital virtual assistant is to collect patient data. By positioning conversational AI, you can store and extract your patients’ information like name, address, signs and symptoms, current doctor and therapy, and insurance information.
Despite virtual assistants’ promising future in healthcare, adopting this technology will still come down to what your patients experience and prefer. Knowing what your patients think about your hospital’s doctors, treatment, and other services is the heartbeat that will pump change in your organization.
Through a simple conversational virtual assistant, patient feedback can help you understand patient behavior towards your services and help you improve accordingly.
- Provide medical information
Care bots can seamlessly create a patient profile in the background by asking several questions like name, age, gender, address, symptoms, health issues, current doctor, and insurance details.
The patient virtual assistant then stores this information in your system, which can be time-saving for doctors in an emergency. You can also use this information to make appointments, facilitate patient admission, symptom tracking, doctor-patient communication, and medical record keeping.
- Handle insurance inquiries
Medical virtual assistants provide your patients with an easy gateway to find appropriate information about insurance services.
A virtual assistant system integrated with Robotic Process Automation (RPA) or other automated solutions helps automate the processing of insurance claims and healthcare billing. Virtual assistants can provide:
- An overview of the available insurance solutions that fit the patient criteria
- Handle policyholder’s queries
- File, process, and manage claims
- Create cross-selling opportunities
- Detect frauds
- Answer insurance-related queries regarding coverage, premium, deductibles, countries, etc.
- Handle payment-related inquiries
Several payment tools are available for balancing healthcare system-related payments; however, handling payment-related queries can strain your support services and often leave the questions unanswered.
Virtual assistants are flexible as they can work much more quickly. In addition to this, medical virtual assistants can also handle payment related queries like:
- Information on the last purchase
- Return policy
- Product recommendations
- Updating account information
- Nearest stores available for buying a medicine
- Provide mental health assistance
Mental healthcare services are still not readily available worldwide. As per a study published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, there are only nine psychiatrists per 100,000 people in developed countries and 0.1 for every 1,000,000 in lower-income countries.
The inadequacy in mental healthcare services demands technological interventions. Care bots hold great potential in both cases, i.e., those needing or providing mental health services. They are not intended to replace the psychiatrists but rather to be a helping hand for them.
A virtual therapist called “Woebot” uses several techniques to improve their users’ mental health. A study conducted on students using Woebot for mental health assistance showed that this virtual assistant effectively reduced depression symptoms in a period of just two weeks.
- Patient intake
Due to a higher workload or lack of resources, your patients might need to wait long hours before meeting a doctor. Managing patient intake is facilitated by the healthcare staff; however, it has several shortcomings.
While handling many patients, you may miss out on crucial patient information. Using virtual assistants for managing patient intake can provide patients with timely and personalized healthcare services.
By automating the patient intake process using a doctor bot, you can reduce the total workload. In addition, virtual assistants can automate in-person visits and remote delivery of healthcare services via telephone.
As healthcare technology advances, the accuracy and relevancy of care bots as virtual assistants will also increase. A common question arises – will artificial intelligence replace doctors? Certainly, no. You cannot automate everything, but if you opt for conversational AI agents as virtual health assistants, you can deliver better healthcare even to the remotest corners of the world.