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5 Key Uses of Conversational AI in Healthcare

Conversational Artificial Intelligence is proving itself as one of the most powerful allies in the midst of a global healthcare crisis that, though aggravated by the pandemic, had begun years before. The combination of aging populations and an overly stressed, overworked, underpaid workforce make for a rather bleak prospect for the healthcare industry, and emerging technologies are the most effective tools to improve this situation. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the shortage of doctors, nurses, and other health professionals will rise to 30 million worldwide by 2030. This number is a forewarning that appeals to healthcare systems -but also to governments and societies as a whole-, and that signals the urge to develop strategies to tackle the problems that are already arising as a result of this gap.  

Luckily, we are already seeing lots of proactive responses to the impact of this ongoing global healthcare crisis. A revolution is taking place at this very moment, in which new uses of Artificial Intelligence are constantly emerging and evolving, and new healthcare solution companies are being created. These new tools are being used to improve healthcare and democratize access to it.

Among them, Conversational AI is particularly attractive for healthcare providers, mainly because of the broad spectrum of its uses, and how it helps tackle a wide range of issues in an efficient, cost-effective manner.

Conversational Artificial Intelligence: What it is and how it improves healthcare

Today, and for the first time in history, humanity has developed a combination of technologies (computing power, storage, programming complexity) that allow for creating human-like conversation experiences with machines.

This is what we mean by Conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI): technologies that users can speak to, such as chatbots and virtual agents. Using large volumes of data, machine learning (ML), and natural language processing (NLP), they can mimic human interactions, recognizing speech and text inputs and translating their meanings.

Why is conversational AI important?

Conversational AI is important because it is already producing a massive impact in the healthcare industry, mainly by improving operational efficiencies, facilitating healthcare professionals’ everyday lives, and allowing for better patient outcomes. In the context of a healthcare system that is suffering from an ongoing stress and labor shortage crisis, it offers a patient-centric approach that can alleviate some of the most urgent issues in the industry.

conversational ai in healthcare

What is an example of conversational AI in health care?

By now, most of us have probably already experienced some sort of interaction with an AI. Some of the biggest tech companies in the world have developed their conspicuous virtual assistants – Siri, Alexa, Cortana – designed to perform simple, everyday tasks to aid people in their personal and professional lives. As these technologies evolve, they tend to be used at more and more fields, such as the healthcare industry. 

Below, we will take a quick look at some of the key uses of Artificial Intelligence in healthcare. Naturally, and since we are all aware of how digital technologies evolve at a shockingly fast pace, not only is this list non-exhaustive, but the number of uses of conversational AI in healthcare is very likely to be expanded soon.

Fighting Misinformation

Sadly, we have all witnessed how the pandemic has only intensified the noxious power of disinformation in our society. Though the conundrum of fake news and misinformation has existed since ancient times, it has only worsened as communication technologies become much more embedded in our everyday lives. 

In this context, Conversational AI has proved itself as one of the most reliable allies in the ongoing struggle against the spread of lies. For example, during the worst days of the pandemic, conversational AI systems were able to explain how to social distance, when to wear a mask, when to self-isolate, and how to manage symptoms. Advanced conversational AI systems are updated along with the latest guidelines, making sure that the advice is always aligned with the latest science and best practices.

While the urge of overturning the damage that misinformation causes puts additional stress on healthcare professionals, Conversational AI is a powerful tool to provide patients with accurate and essential information, ultimately making the job of nurses and physicians easier.

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FAQs, Upgraded

Today, most healthcare users prefer self-service rather than speaking to a person. Traditionally, FAQs have been used to offer users quick answers to their doubts. But, for obvious reasons, FAQs cannot grasp the full complexity of human communication. Unlike FAQ sections on healthcare providers’ websites, conversational AI is an ideal method of self-service in healthcare because it overcomes many of its traditional challenges. 

When using the website search function, users might have difficulty finding the most appropriate answer to their question since they aren’t using the same terminology that has been previously written in the FAQs. They can also have more than one question, which would involve navigating through different pages. Intelligent conversational interfaces use NLP to deliver appealing answers to patients, matching the exact answer to a question regardless of the terminology used by users.

The first two uses we have just described (providing accurate information, and clearing out doubts) are encompassed within the services provided by Ada Health, the Berlin-based AI healthcare company that has become one of the most prominent examples of how conversational AI can be used to improve healthcare.

Scheduling Appointments

Most current appointment scheduling systems tend to be inflexible, unintuitive, and ultimately frustrating for patients. Instead, conversational AI systems help patients schedule appointments fast and easily, allowing them to seamlessly book, reschedule, or cancel appointments. 

Aside from this, advanced AI platforms can integrate with other applications and information systems in real-time to eliminate scheduling conflicts. They can also deliver appointment reminders and other pieces of crucial information, such as documentation requirements. 

conversational artificial intelligence

Processing Patient Data

Data makes conversational AI possible. The nature of conversational AI systems is to constantly collect and track large quantities of patient data. Healthcare providers can make better decisions using that information to increase patient satisfaction and quality of care by gaining invaluable insights from that information.

With the help of conversational AI, health providers identify gaps in care by tracking and analyzing how patients interact with the system. Questions asked by patients reveal their medical literacy level and their understanding of the different aspects of visiting a clinic. These insights are later used to choose which information should be delivered to each patient individually so that their experience is ultimately more rewarding and informative.

Automating Administrative Tasks

With healthcare professionals increasingly stressed and suffering the effects of overwork, conversational artificial intelligence can alleviate the burden of endless administrative tasks that are as tiresome as they are essential. Employees are usually forced to switch between different applications to complete these tasks, which only adds to the risk of stress and burnout. 

An intelligent conversational AI platform simplifies this process by unifying administrative processes into one single system. Submitting requests, sending updates, and tracking statuses can all be done in the same place and in the form of a natural conversation. One of the most well-known examples of this type of use is Amelia, a New York-based conversational AI company that has developed services for the healthcare industry that can manage member, administrative, and provider tasks. 

What is the future of healthcare conversational AI?

Amid the crisis in the healthcare sector, conversational AI is emerging as an extraordinarily effective tool for tackling the issues of employee burnout, stressed systems, and declining quality of service. Though there are still healthcare providers and professionals that, for different reasons, resist adapting, conversational AI is bound to revolutionize healthcare for years to come.

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