The key to a successful provider/patient relationship in healthcare is patient engagement. Recently, hospitals and healthcare companies have expanded their efforts toward patient engagement in the form of Artificial Intelligence or AI. Chatbots are being used to improve the triage process, patient discharge planning, and follow-up.
The practice of utilizing the ER for both emergent and non-emergent conditions has become the primary driver for overcrowding and longer wait times. On average, a visit to the emergency room can take anywhere from one to three hours. In an extreme situation, that visit can last even longer. As a result, patients requiring immediate medical attention are choosing to put themselves at risk for future complications by avoiding the ER altogether. In an attempt to reduce inappropriate use of the ER, hospitals are deploying Health chatbots as a means for patients to triage or assign a level of urgency to, their injury or illness. Though it cannot provide an actual diagnosis, a chatbot can guide the patient to identify the severity of their symptoms, enabling them to make an informed decision about where and when to seek care. For the less complex and non-urgent conditions, an at-home treatment option could be provided. In the end, the goal is to guide patients toward the appropriate level of care while reducing overcrowding and wait times in the ER.
Boston Children’s Hospital has deployed chatbots in their facilities as a way of triaging non-emergent issues away from the ER, and have integrated a chatbot into their website to improve pediatric outcomes. By collecting data through a system like a chatbot, parents can diagnose and treat mild conditions outside of an emergency room setting, or for more severe conditions, feel confident when seeking a higher level of care. Boston Children’s continues to expand opportunities to engage its customers by evolving their conversational AI solutions. By partnering with Amazon, they created KidsMD, a voice-activated Alexa skill that provides pediatric treatment advice to parents. Now it is easier for parents to have access to medical guidance while their hands are tied with their little patients.
Northwell Hospital is taking patient engagement one step further, by using chatbots to keep its patients connected after being discharged. If they are enrolled in a transitional care management program, patients will have access to general discharge topics and information specific to their condition via a chatbot. The chatbot improves the patient experience and quality of aftercare while helping the providers keep a closer eye on their patients outside of a facility setting.
Healthcare companies, like Premera Blue Cross, are following suit by identifying non-traditional channels to engage their members. They have recognized that their members, like most consumers, want to be able to engage with their healthcare company and medical professionals, regardless of the time of day. Premera Scout is a user-friendly chatbot that has been incorporated into their mobile app. The chatbot addresses questions normally handled by Premera customer service, saving their members time. Premera Pulse, a recently added feature, extends the level of engagement by allowing members to locate doctors and schedule appointments directly from their phone.
Although the healthcare industry is vast, complex, and often slow to change, innovation and customer demand are putting pressure on healthcare companies and hospitals to keep up. Using advances in technology to create a seamless, integrated, and engaging experience for consumers will help to drive better outcomes and overall satisfaction.