Using Chatbots in Healthcare

Donna White

Donna White

By Donna White, Principal Consultant and Owner of Legacy Consulting Services and Legacy Billing Solutions in Montgomery, Alabama.

They’re becoming an everyday tool on the internet and our phones: chatbots. What is a chatbot? It is a computer program designed to simulate a conversation with human users. Examples of chatbots include The Amazon Echo, commonly known as Alexa. There is also a political engagement platform called Resistbot, where voters can check their registration and find out where their polling locations are. Chatbots are becoming popular for all sorts of platforms. And the next looks to be healthcare.

Due to the cost involved, we’re only beginning to see chatbots in hospitals and emergency rooms, but insurance companies are utilizing them as well to help patients understand their benefits. However, they are gaining support in the medical community, particularly since they can nearly all be used on a mobile platform, making them easy and convenient for patients to use.

While it is early to see what the cost savings will be in using chatbots, the positive patient response indicates better patient engagement. And better patient engagement is one of CMS’s primary goals with technology.

A pilot preparing for launch is a chatbot to help patients prepare for their colonoscopy. The idea is to have the patient come to their visit fully prepared for their procedure and prevent last-minute cancellations.

Besides prepatory uses, chatbots are also being engaged to follow up with patients post-discharge. This helps with follow up and ensuring patients stay on-track with their discharge instructions. The patients receive a link that sends them to a HIPAA-compliant web interface that they can access from their computer, or better yet, their mobile devices.

Besides the potential cost savings and increased patient engagement, potentially the greatest benefit comes from offering providers another tool to be better able to track their patient’s progress.

What are your thoughts on using chatbots with healthcare? Do you see them as a great patient tool or yet another piece of technology that could interfere with patient care? We’d love to hear your thoughts – comment below!

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