More than 50 years have passed since ELIZA, the first medical psychotherapist programme, first talked to people. Today medical chatbots can do more than perform mere communication. They ask patients questions, give them advice, diagnose diseases, monitor the treatment process, and perform other functions.
Here are some information on what healthcare chatbots can do, how they help people combat infectious diseases, and what you should do if you want to create a perfect custom healthcare software.
What is a healthcare chatbot?
A chatbot is a program based on AI and ML algorithms, which communicates with people through text and voice messages. The software collects the information, passes it to healthcare workers, assists visitors consultations in finding the data they need, and even serves as a psychotherapist in order to help people overcome depression and other mental disorders.
Regular chatbots wouldn’t cope with the task because they operate based on the given scenarios. Therefore, the healthcare sector needs more advanced robots based on AI, Machine Learning, neural networks, and Natural Language Processing. Such chatbots won’t be confused by complex wording or ambiguous answers. The algorithms are learning while communicating, becoming more skillful assistants.
Functions of healthcare chatbots
Chatbots are becoming increasingly popular in healthcare facilities. The reporters of the Global Chatbots in Healthcare Market – Analysis and Forecast stated that in 2018, the global chatbot market was estimated at $36.5 million. The market is expected to grow by 26% annually and amount to $543 million by 2026.
Healthcare chatbots have the following five important functions:
- Protection of patient anonymity, which is important for sensitive questions associated with the state of health
- People’s health monitoring
- Care personalisation by monitoring oxygenation, heart rate, body temperature, and other vital signs using sensors
- Communication with people online at any time and immediate response to requests
- Cimultaneous interaction with a large number of people
Medical chatbots are designed to improve the quality of customer service and the performance of healthcare institutions.
Options for the use of medical chatbots
Virtual advisors transform healthcare in the following ways:
- Taking history before an appointment. According to Statista, most doctors spend from 13 to 24 minutes examining a patient, and half of that time is devoted to entering data into the case record and doing other paperwork. To make the work easier for doctors, healthcare facilities introduce virtual assistants. These assistants are based on algorithms that are trained on the data from anonymous medical records, public reference books, and healthcare databases. A chatbot’s ‘thinking’ is formed on the basis of Natural Language Processing, a recommendation engine, a module for determining the group of diagnoses, and a module for additional questions on complaints. A conversational program conducts structured patient surveys, asking them about their symptoms and chronic diseases, preliminarily classifies the diseases in groups, and advises which doctor to turn to. If needed, a patient can attach test results and other data important for treatment in the chat. The collected information is sent to the app and automatically transferred to the EHR
- Making appointments. Chatbots schedule appointments with the doctors at any time of the day. Even elderly people can easily use them. A virtual assistant reschedules or cancels appointments and is integrated into the calendars of users’ devices to send them reminders of the upcoming visits.
- Informing and supporting patients. Chatbots provide information relevant to users through pop-ups and notifications. If someone is looking for information about the symptoms of tonsillitis, the algorithm will display recommendations on how to cure it. If a user is reading about the alcoholism treatment, a pop-up menu shows up, and a chatbot clarifies whether the visitor needs help with the treatment and specialist advice. Some medical chatbots act as digital nutritionists. They track users’ eating habits and offer them suitable diets. Other conversational assistants handle highly specialised issues; for example, helping patients with oncology. CancerChatbot provides users with cancer information, methods of treatment of the disease, prognosis, and research. Healthcare chatbots remind people of taking their pills. To set up a reminder, you only need to specify the name of your medication and dose frequency in a chat.
- Providing psychological help. Psychotherapist chatbots are capable of conducting cognitive-behavioral therapy. These chatbots are used by people suffering from depression, stress, or anxiety disorders. Also, chatbots can teach people with mental retardation to improve their social skills. The programme based on conversational AI communicates with people through messages, voice, and video, helping patients change their behaviour and way of thinking.
- Assisting physicians. The doctors rely on data about medicines that chatbots provide them via messaging apps. The chatbot gives instructions on the medicine dosage, side effects, and duration of taking, as well as offers alternatives if the basic medicines are not available.
How healthcare chatbots are fighting against Covid
During the pandemic, chatbots have proven themselves as decent virtual assistants. They have become the source of reliable information about the coronavirus, eliminating misinformation and panic among people. Chatbots inform people about the symptoms, precautions, and morbidity statistics.
Healthcare chatbots are being trained to identify the infection based on the knowledge of the coronavirus symptoms. The program asks a patient about their general condition, analyzes the indicated symptoms, and recommends treatment. If a conversational bot can’t answer the question, it redirects the person to a chat with the narrow specialist.
Virtual assistants help to avoid overcrowded wards. People go to hospitals only if they fail to recover on their own.
Providing remote services with the help of medical chatbots is especially relevant during the pandemic when social distancing is important. Combining the effort of virtual assistants and health workers will allow healthcare facilities to be more productive. The algorithms perform simple tasks while clinicians solve difficult issues. Patients get access to 24/7 support and consultations when the doctors are not available.
If you’d like to create your own chatbot to increase the efficiency of your business, Andersen’s experts on custom healthcare software development will be delighted to implement your project.
Robert Haynes did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health and well-being.