Today, the healthcare industry is focused on increasing patient engagement to an optimal level, especially by introducing digitization. Digital patient engagement proves to be the best strategy to improve health outcomes and decrease care costs.
Advances in conversational artificial intelligence are transforming basic chatbots into intelligent virtual assistants that provide comfort and utility for healthcare consumers and the healthcare organizations that serve them.
Chatbots are not a replacement for human interaction, but if designed right they can meet patients’ increasing expectations for digital experiences that are truly helpful. Implementing right patient engagement strategies that are intuitive, accessible,and empathetic is what separates a simple chatbot from an intelligent healthcare virtual assistant (VHA).
What is Healthcare Virtual Assistant Exactly?
Intelligent Virtual Assistants (aka chatbots) can revolutionize the way care providers engage with patients. These healthcare virtual assistants (VHAs) can provide current and accurate information to help patients navigate through any support they need or help them to book appointments. Hospitals can create a simpler, friendlier, and personalized ecosystem for their patients with AI-powered chatbots that can help across patient care journeys. While healthcare chatbots can never replace doctors, they can definitely make their work easier, faster, and more efficient
The success of any healthcare virtual assistant is defined by user experiences that are intuitive, natural and conversational.
Medical virtual assistants benefit your patients in the following ways:
- Enable 24*7 access to healthcare information
- Schedule appointments
- Send notifications or appointment reminders
- Automate customer support with contextual help.
Virtual assistants also help hospitals in the following ways:
- Collect patient history, insurance details, demographic information, costing, and analysis of records
- Focus on the needs of the patient
- Reduce burnout on doctors and hospital staff
- Lower hospital operational costs
Challenges Faced by Healthcare Organizations While Implementing Healthcare Virtual Assistants
The infusion of virtual healthcare assistants (VHAs) will bring a paradigm shift in how your healthcare organization delivers superior patient experience. While virtual assistants will help your staff with administrative or other tasks, they will slash off the unnecessary time spent by both patients and hospital staff.
However before adopting such technology, you must also know the common challenges faced by hospitals while implementing medical virtual assistants:
- Lack of Compassion
Due to digital technologies like natural language processing (NLP) and AI, modern day healthcare virtual assistants can understand the emotions of patients at a deeper level than earlier, but it is not entirely true. This is because countless individuals use this platform, and the uniqueness of each individual can confuse such digital tools.
Individuals may prefer simple, technical, or humorous conversations, and virtual assistance may not be intuitive to that level where they can understand the different tones of individuals.
- Inaccurate Diagnosis
Human errors are possible in the healthcare industry and using virtual assistants can help improve accuracy and reduce such errors during diagnosis.
A wrong diagnosis is a greater risk than the lack of empathy in virtual assistants. If virtual assistants fail to understand patients’ mindsets, it might cause serious consequences. For example, if chatbots misinterpret a patient’s condition and simply recommend correcting diet and sleep patterns rather than visiting a psychiatrist, the patient might become much worse.
- Security and Privacy Concerns
To work successfully, you need to ensure that the virtual assistants are trained. Along with training, virtual assistants also learn when they keep having conversations with patients. During this process, virtual assistants collect information, and your patients or doctors may unknowingly provide essential data.
Recently, a lot has been happening with data privacy and security among different industries, including the healthcare industry. Every individual is protective when it comes to sharing personal information. Hence, virtual assistants must assure data privacy for both your patients and doctors.
- Workflow & Process Automation
To maximize the utility of nurse virtual assistants, you need to integrate them with the business workflows so that they can fulfill patients’ and doctors’ needs.
For example, a patient is interested in a surgery provided by the hospital. The patient communicates with a virtual assistant to learn more about this surgery. However, if that virtual assistant is only designed to talk about home remedies to manage a condition, it can create misunderstanding between the patient and the virtual assistant. Therefore, it is essential to let everyone know the features of your virtual assistant platform.
How Virtual Healthcare Assistants (VHAs) can Automate your Healthcare Practice?
Healthcare virtual assistants can be deployed on multiple platforms (web, iOS, Android) and integrated into various channels like SMS, email, WhatsApp, and Facebook. Chatbots can adapt the user experience to the capabilities of the channel.
- Personalized Healthcare Information
Virtual assistants are an excellent alternative for providing healthcare information to the patients, helping reduce repetitive calls to your hospitals.
Medical virtual assistants are trained using a massive healthcare database that includes symptoms, diagnoses, and treatment options for the health condition. The intelligence level of conversational virtual assistants helps to understand the questions asked by the patients and provide correct suggestions based on the training provided.
In addition to patients, your doctors and other staff can also use virtual assistants to access patient information. Hospitals are no strangers to emergencies, and time plays a crucial role in tackling these emergencies. In cases where every minute counts, virtual assistants instantly provide the users with essential information.
When a patient tries to reach out to your hospitals by using virtual assistants, the virtual assistants collect the patient’s data by asking simple questions like their name, age, address, symptoms, and current doctor. The virtual assistants then store this information in the hospital database, which is used to facilitate care.
- Symptoms Checking
Healthcare virtual assistants can help understand patients’ health conditions by asking questions about their symptoms and history. Then, based on the inputs provided by the patient, virtual assistants can tell the patient whether the illness is severe or not.
While building a symptom checker, the first thing is understanding what data is essential. What better way than involving doctors in this? Virtual assistants for checking symptoms work best when doctors team up with the software developers to create customized solutions based on the patient and hospital needs.
- Appointment Scheduling & Reminders
Patients do not always have the time to visit in person to book appointments with a doctor in the hospital. Also, calling a hospital to book an appointment can be tedious when the staff has to answer numerous calls daily, making patients feel left out.
Here is how a virtual assistant can help solve this problem:
- When a patient chats with the virtual assistant to schedule appointments, the virtual assistant extracts information about the suitable doctors, working days, and available slots and helps patients schedule an appointment. They also help reschedule or cancel appointments. As a result, virtual assistants conveniently manage patient requests and save time on booking appointments.
Similarly, virtual medical assistants also remind patients about these appointments and follow-ups. When the appointment date comes closer, virtual assistants can send automated messages via text messages, emails, or phone calls to confirm, reschedule or cancel the appointment. This helps patients remember the date and time of their appointment and reduces no-shows in your hospital. In the end, this saves time for both the doctor and the patient.
Multiple healthcare facilities are adopting virtual appointment scheduling and reminders. As a result, the automated patient appointment reminder market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 10.57%.
- Real-time Healthcare Assistance, Pre & Post Care
No one likes waiting long to start a conversation and get a response from hospitals for something that only takes a few seconds. This is why integrating virtual assistance is a necessary step for communicating with your patients.
Nowadays, many patients rely on chat support as their preferred channel for interacting with hospitals. This is because patients want faster resolution of their queries, and what better way than exploring virtual assistants!
Virtual assistants elevate the support experience by offering instant, automated, and high-quality responses compared to human-to-human interaction. In addition, by providing 24*7 support, virtual assistants don’t have downtime in providing real-time assistance.
- Patient Onboarding & Engagement
The rise of virtual assistants has introduced newer approaches for delivery care and broadened access to healthcare by reaching out to patients outside the hospital’s four walls. Initially, virtual assistants provided answers to simple patient queries, but nowadays, they help patients find different services and choose the best ones according to their needs.
In order to know about their health, patients want information that is specific to them. Virtual assistants bridge this gap and help patients accomplish things faster.
Different ways by which virtual assistants increase patient onboarding and healthcare consumer engagement are:
- Provide personalized experience: Virtual assistants rely on continuous tuning and testing to maintain a conversational tone with patients without requiring one-on-one human interaction.
- Have meaningful connection with patients: The flexibility of virtual assistants to connect with patients via multiple platforms and languages helps to amplify onboarding and engagement.
- Deliver engaging information: By using fact sheets, web links, images, videos, and FAQs, chatbots successfully deliver engaging information to the patients.
Virtual assistants help build trust with your patients by responding promptly to queries and educational content.
Patient onboarding is critical as it represents revenue opportunities for your hospitals while you aim to enroll new patients as quickly as possible. Implementing virtual assistants can dramatically decrease manual efforts to onboard patients.
- Claims & Benefits Management, Pre-authorization
Like other industries, insurance companies are also looking forward to digital transformation using AI. Automated systems like virtual assistance bring efficiency and allow you to complete processes rapidly.
Virtual assistants provide an easy gateway for patients for the following:
- Provide 24*7 information to the policyholders about premiums, deductibles, and what the policy covers
- Facilitate the filing process of claims
- Inform policyholders about reimbursements
- Review and verify claims and policy details to prevent fraud
In a similar manner, because doctors have easy access to patient information, they can pre-authorize billing and other patient requests.
- Billing and Administration
Virtual assistants are continuously transforming how you can interact with business every day. Bill payments are one of the steps of the patient’s journey where virtual assistants have a significant impact. You can use virtual assistants for billing and administrative work right from admitting the patient to your hospital to applying for an insurance claim.
A simple, user-friendly experience via virtual assistance is all that is needed for meeting the billing and payment expectations of patients. Here’s how virtual assistants are revolutionizing the way you can provide billing information and accept digital payments:
- Provide quicker answers to payment and billing queries like the due date for billing, modes of payment, etc.
- Aid in building on the speed and efficiency of payments compared to traditional payment methods, such as cheques or cash
- Help hospitals to pick up the slack without straining tight resources like finite staff and limited budgets
The Future of Healthcare Virtual Assistants for Value Based Care
Recent advances in AI are revolutionizing the healthcare industry. Implementing conversational AI tools such as virtual assistants has become imperative for hospitals to transform the patient experience.
With increasing demand for seamless medical assistance, the adoption of virtual assistance in healthcare has increased.
Despite the immense potential, there are significant challenges and risks involved in healthcare virtual assistants. However, these problems can be solved with time. As virtual assistants gather more and more data, they will only get better with time.