Sound far-fetched? Amazon has sold over 11 million of its Echo/Alexa voice-activated home AI devices in just two years. Twitter is using chatbots for customer support. A bank in London has a bot that helps people manage their pensions.
Healthcare is a discipline ripe for chatbot disruption. A few startups are already exploring the use of algorithms, machine learning and bots to rethink doctor/patient/payer relationships.
Imagine a computer whirring away in a data center somewhere in the remote Oregon countryside, scanning and analyzing images and reports and medical records. The process might have been triggered by your recent annual physical. An analysis of the data indicates a worrisome trend – you have been losing height over the past 18 months. Is it an indicator of bone density loss or a spinal issue? Suddenly, your smartphone rings — it’s a chatbot. The application casually asks a few questions about diet and overall wellness and then looks at both your calendar and your doctor’s and schedules an appointment to further investigate.
The possible applications of healthcare chatbot technology are almost endless. The exciting aspect is that bots can deliver both quantifiable business value as well as behavioral benefit. A chatbot could talk patients through the stack of forms required when visiting a doctor or hospital. Think of how much stress might be removed as a result! The same approach could be used by payers to populate the forms they need, providing more transparency when managing projects, conducting financial analysis or measuring performance to reduce costs and improve efficiency.
The evolving world of chatbots has the potential to help physicians and the broader caregiver community deliver extraordinary healthcare in ways that simply cannot be achieved with traditional face-to-face interaction (not cost effective), e-mails/phone calls (too cumbersome and time-dependent), or even Web sites (inconsistent & difficult to use/access).
The possible benefits are tremendous, not just to doctors and patients but also to the payer ecosystem. Chatbots, AI and machine learning can dramatically transform the ways in which healthcare is delivered and managed.
“OK, Google – what time will the rain stop so I can go for a jog?”