This is part 2 in a 3 part series. Be sure to check out part 1, “What is a Bot, Exactly?”
Did you know one of the first prototype chatbots, ELIZA, was a psychotherapist?
Yup. She was a computer program made in 1966 that simulated real therapy conversations. So real, in fact, people thought she was a human on the other end.
Here’s a conversation with an ELIZA-like chatbot I found online:
It comes as no surprise, then, that chatbots are a pretty common feature in healthcare now.
In our first article, we went over what a chatbot was and what they could and couldn’t do.
This second article in this three-part series will answer the questions:
“How are chatbots normally used in healthcare? How are chatbots used to boost patient workflows and patient experience?”
Usual Way: For Appointment Reminders
Most chatbots in medical practices are appointment reminders.
They’re pretty simple.
The chatbot sends a message (text, email, or voice) reminding a patient about their next appointment. Then, the patient responds. If the chatbot “understands” the response, it’ll usually say “thank you.”
Chatbot enthusiasts would cringe calling this rudimentary reminder program a chatbot. But that’s pretty much what appointment reminders are.
But not all reminder services are created equal. Here’s where some of them go wrong:
- They don’t “understand” responses
- They don’t respond when they should
- They don’t engage patients conversationally
New Way #1: So Patients Can Be More Effective
Chatbots are awesome for helping patients be more efficient in a couple ways:
- Request an appointment
- Identify the care they need
The chatbot for Your.MD, for example, connects patients to the care they need. It’s also a user-friendly knowledge base patients can use for quick reference.
Patients access the Your.MD chatbot with their app and other messaging platforms. If the patient requests it, the chatbot delivers helpful content relevant to the patient’s condition. It can even connect the patient with a provider via another platform like Doctor Push.
Luma Health released a chatbot not too long ago that engages with patients the same way. Using secure text messaging, the Luma chatbot gives patients access to pharmacies, doctors, and imaging centers.
The convenience factor aside, the chatbot lifts barriers to care to help patients get the care they need.
New Way #2: For Patient Experience
Chatbots can also engage patients and improve patient experience — without the need for a customer support team or a physician on the other end.
One of the best (and simplest) things a business can do with chatbots is help clients learn about their practice. Businesses can use chatbots on their social networks and even on their websites to boost user engagement, and even acquire new patients through bots.
Since customers and patients often look online first, providers have taken an active approach in response. How? They’ve turned their websites, social media, and online review pages into customer and patient acquisition tools.
Some use companies like Chatfuel, for example, to help create chatbots for their Facebook page. Facebook Messenger bots work pretty well because approximately 1.2 billion users are on it every month.
Luma Health released a chatbot that goes the extra mile with patient engagement. It makes it easier than ever to book an appointment and ask questions. Companies can use the chatbot on their Facebook pages and website.
Is That it for Chatbots in Healthcare?
We’ve now learned how chatbots are used in healthcare. But can chatbots play a role in healing? Can providers prescribe a chatbot that has actual therapeutic value?
Be on the lookout for our next post (oh, wait, it’s right here), and let’s chat.
But before that, ♡ this post if you’ve ever told a bot, “I love you.”
Written by Tashfeen Ekram, MD.
Tashfeen is a radiologist, self-taught coder, healthcare innovator and Co-Founder of Luma Health. Contact him on Twitter at @tashfeenekramMD.