How chatbots in healthcare are transforming the patient experience

Zuzanna Sieja

According to a Meticulous Research report, the global healthcare chatbots market is expected to reach $703.2 million by 2025.

So it’s little surprise companies have responded to growing demand by developing solutions that provide digital healthcare assistance. But what do these chatbots actually do? That’s what we’ll cover today.

In this article, you’ll learn:

  • The role of chatbots in healthcare
  • The advantages of using them
  • Six practical use cases for chatbots
  • The five most popular healthcare chatbots 

Ready? Let’s start.

Role of chatbots in healthcare

Life is hectic. And it’s all too easy for a doctor’s appointment or prescription to slip the mind. But thanks to technology, this kind of forgetfulness could soon become a thing of the past.

Hundreds of companies are building AI solutions to help everyone be more organized, especially when it comes to healthcare. And one of the leading developments in the space is medical bots.

In essence, these are personal assistants that track doctor’s appointments, remind patients to take medication, help people improve their diet, even suggest exercise plans — but they’re not just patient-focused.

They’re helping healthcare providers and insurance companies connect with people and communicate what’s important in a timely way.

In fact, some of these chatbots are sophisticated enough to provide empathetic and supportive care, creating an experience that helps patients feel valued, validated, and heard, which is why they’re now acting as:

  • Hospital administrators
  • Healthcare consultants
  • Elderly care providers
  • Self-care coaches
  • Emergency alarms

But to help you understand if a chatbot is right for your healthcare facility, let’s first see how they can improve a business.

[ Read also: How artificial intelligence is transforming diabetes.]

5 advantages of using chatbots in healthcare

AI-powered bots can boost healthcare in many ways, but the five most talked-about advantages revolve around:

  1. Access: chatbots make medical advice available 24-7, helping patients find the information they need, even if a practice is closed.
  2. Scalability: chatbots can handle upwards of 1,000 interactions in parallel, meaning no limits on patient support.
  3. Fewer no-shows: on average, a missed appointment costs medical practices $200, but a digital assistant can significantly reduce no-shows by sending reminders.
  4. Automated record keeping: chatbots are great at taking notes, giving doctors more time to care for their patients.
  5. Cost-savings: Juniper Research estimates that annual savings derived from adopting chatbots in healthcare will hit $3.6 billion by 2022.

Medical chatbots — use cases

While the benefits of a healthcare chatbot are clear, you may still be struggling to see where to deploy one in your organization.

Here’s some inspiration.

Scheduling appointments (and sending reminders)

One of the healthcare industry’s biggest challenges is employee burnout. When doctors feel overwhelmed, they can struggle to give patients the attention they need. And sometimes, a heavy workload can lead to incorrect diagnoses.

Chatbots can ease the strain by triaging multiple patients at once, referring those who need specialist care on to the doctor. The chatbot can then handle the booking process, allowing patients to choose a doctor, pick a time, enter personal data, even add symptoms to help the doctor know the context before the visit.

Better still, the chatbot can send reminders via text, email, voice, WhatsApp, or WeChat, ensuring patients don’t forget what’s in their calendar.

Symptoms checking

Several healthcare providers now let patients use bots to check symptoms and understand the possible cause from the comfort of their homes.

Chatbots with NLP interpret the input, regardless of the data supplied. And by analyzing the information, the bot helps patients narrow down the cause to potential conditions before recommending the next steps.

And if a doctor’s visit is required, the chatbot will forward on a transcription of the conversation, ensuring that patients never have to repeat themselves.

Health tracking

Patients who require ongoing care can benefit from chatbots too. Bots help doctors retrieve prescription data in real-time, including lists of ingredients and suggested alternative drugs. 

Moreover, bots can gather detailed records of how conditions evolve, helping doctors assess a prescription’s effectiveness. Overall, chatbots make prescriptions simpler for all, ensuring patients receive the correct medication with a proper dosage and the right instructions.

Online payments (and query handling)

Online payments are now commonplace. They’re secure, convenient, and straightforward. And there’s no reason a chatbot can’t help healthcare providers introduce them.

By offering streamlined online payments, supported by a chatbot, healthcare providers can significantly reduce patient billing queries — all by helping patients understand their invoices, address related questions, and process payments in one place.

Mental health assistance

Chatbots can provide mental health assistance by offering cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to people with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or depression. They can also help people with autism improve their social skills via text, webcams, and microphones. Bots have even been used to provide meditation sessions and Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT).

Frequently Asked Questions

Many websites now transform their FAQ sections into interactive chatbots dedicated to responding to general inquiries, and it’s easy to see why.

Chatbots can answer queries like ‘what the payment tariffs are’ or ‘which documents are necessary to receive treatment.’ They can even handle complex questions like ‘how much is covered by insurance,’ saving patients and medical personnel a lot of time.

Examples of chatbots in healthcare industry

We’ve seen the most common use cases for chatbots in healthcare. Now, let’s turn to a selection of the best-known solutions available today. 

1. Ada

The first app we mention has attracted more than 11.5 million users to its diagnostic tool by providing detailed health assessments based on a person’s symptoms. 

Ada asks predefined questions, then compares the answers to thousands of inputs before generating an evaluation and offering relevant recommendations. The chatbot also provides detailed advice on conditions, treatments, and procedures, even connecting patients to local healthcare providers.

2. Babylon Health

Babylon Health offers consultations with a virtual doctor. An app asks the users to share their symptoms, which it runs against a database of thousands of conditions that fit the mold. The service then displays possible diagnoses and the steps the patient should take to resolve their condition. 

The app uses built-in speech recognition and NLP, analyzing speech and text to produce its outputs. If necessary, it also offers video conferences with Babylon physicians — while it can authorize prescriptions at nearby pharmacies. Better still, the app stores notes after every consultation.

3. CancerChatbot

Jonno Boyer-Dry created CancerChatbot after his own cancer diagnosis. Why? Because he had found it so hard to find relevant resources about the illness. 

CancerChatbot gives users the latest data on cancer-related topics, running user queries against a vast dataset of cases, research, and clinical trials. The bot also helps families and friends learn how to care for patients, contributing to their treatment and recovery.

4. Florence 

Florence is a personal nurse that works on Facebook Messenger, Skype, and Kik. The chatbot reminds patients to take pills based on information like the medicine’s name, dosage, and the time. 

Florence messages the patient when it’s time to take the medication. Moreover, the chatbot tracks the user’s health, for example, monitoring their weight, mood, or period cycle. Florence also knows how to find the nearest pharmacy or physician, just in case you need one.

5. Woebot 

Woebot offers a different kind of cognitive-behavioral therapy. The chatbot helps people open up, simply by asking them about their feelings. Once they answer, the bot starts some self-reflection exercises, helping draw attention to any negative emotions the person may have.

There’s more to chatbots than meets the eye

These are just a few examples of how a chatbot can help in healthcare. 

But if you want to learn what chatbots are doing in marketing, finance, and beyond, subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates. Or if you’re thinking about building a chatbot yourself, here’s a thought…

Why not schedule a chat? We’d love to hear your ideas, then help you design the perfect solution for your organization.

Zuzanna Sieja

Marketing Specialist with a special interest in e-commerce and social media. Privately she's crazy about cats.

Read more on our blog