Healthcare Chatbots: When Do They Help and When Do They Hurt?

Chatbots have the potential to enhance the healthcare experience saving both patients and doctors time, but they aren’t a cure-all. Here are its advantages and limitations.

Written by Alexandra Whitt
Published on Jun. 21, 2024
Healthcare Chatbots: When Do They Help and When Do They Hurt?
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Healthcare technology changes and progresses every year. The advent of AI has altered the healthcare landscape exponentially. Virtual assistants and AI-powered conversational chatbots have become more prominent with their presence across the spectrum. In the era of digital customer experience, customers expect fast and easy conversational exchanges.

7 Ways Chatbots Can Improve Healthcare

  1. Improve user engagement.
  2. Speed up responsiveness to minor health queries.
  3. Reduce administrative and managerial work.
  4. Improve customer satisfaction.
  5. Advocate health and wellness programs.
  6. Smoothing out insurance issues.
  7. Increased availability and quick access to information for patients.

In fact, healthcare chatbot’s market size was valued at $194.85 million in 2021 and is forecasted to reach $943.64 million by 2030, according to Verified Market Research study.


How Chatbots Help the Healthcare Process

Healthcare chatbots are intelligent assistants that professionals use to help their clients get help faster. They can help by answering FAQs, appointment scheduling, reminders and other repetitive queries to ease the work process of healthcare organizations. They are automated by understanding human needs and converse according to the data given to them.

Chatbots help in communication between the user and the healthcare system. Let’s check a few ways chatbots help in healthcare:

1. Improve User Engagement

 Healthcare chatbots have become a valuable tool for healthcare, with their ability to improve user engagement. By providing customized support, timely information and constant communication, chatbots have proven to enhance the user’s experience. For example, chatbots can help with timely dosage instructions, medication management, health monitoring, follow-ups and reminders. With this dynamic avenue of interaction, they help in active participation of users and healthcare providers.

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2. Quick Responsiveness 

Healthcare chatbots can answer queries that don’t require highly trained healthcare professionals to answer. If you’ve ever wondered whether your cough is just a symptom of the common cold or something worse, asking a chatbot could help save you from booking an unnecessary appointment. Answering minor health queries like that also frees up healthcare professionals to spend more time on their core activities.

3. Reduce administrative and managerial work

Healthcare organizations require a lot of time and resources for their administrative and managerial work. These can be saved with chatbots handling repetitive tasks of reviewing insurance claims, appointment scheduling, analyzing test results, etc. Doing so helps speed up the process of the organizations.

For example, insurance claims processing can be done via the online portal instead of in-person, reducing the number of resources required for communication and follow up procedures.

Administrative personnel need to manually search vast healthcare databases for vital information in the absence of chatbots. This takes up valuable time and might result in possible human errors. For example, a nurse researching a client’s treatment history might unintentionally miss something important, which could lead to severe consequences. By integrating the updated database with a chatbot, it reduces the time taken for such tasks and leads to getting better information.

4. Customer Satisfaction

With the advancements of AI in the healthcare industry, chatbots are able to comprehend users’ needs. The customer experience is improved with the information and assistance they provide. Since they are able to answer the basic questions at the first point of contact, they help users establish trust in the organization and quicken the pace of the care delivery process.

For example, since chatbots interpret and process human-understandable language within the spoken context, they understand the depth of the conversation and realize general user commands or queries. A healthcare chatbot can quickly help patients locate the nearest clinic, pharmacy or healthcare center based on their needs.

5. Advocating Health and Wellness Programs

Chatbots can analyze the given data to recommend appropriate healthcare plans for users. Sentiment analysis can help a well-designed healthcare chatbot with natural language processing (NLP) in understanding user intent and proposing appropriate healthcare plans based on how it analyzes human input.This helps the healthcare organization have more enrollments for the formulated health and wellness programs.

6. Smoothing Out Insurance Issues

Chatbots are highly efficient in getting healthcare insurance claims approved promptly and with ease, giving a sense of consolation to insurance industry professionals. They suggest the most suitable insurance policies and speed up the claiming process, providing clients with a strong sense of security and comfort.

7. Availability and Quick Access to Critical Info

Chatbots are designed to assist clients and avoid problems occurring during regular business hours, such as waiting on hold for a long time or arranging for appointments for their busy schedules. With 24/7 accessibility, clients have immediate access to healthcare assistance when required.

Healthcare chatbots can offer users info about nearby healthcare facilities, hours of operation and nearby pharmacies. They can also be programmed to answer simple questions about a particular condition, such as what to do during a crisis or what to anticipate during a procedure.

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What Are the Limitations of Chatbots in Healthcare?

Chatbots have become well-known in healthcare services, but the technology isn’t flawless. They help customers connect with their healthcare providers. However, here are some of the drawbacks of chatbots in healthcare:

1. Earning User Trust

Even though there is advancement occurring in progressing chatbot technology, chatbots are still unable to understand empathy due to the absence of genuine emotional intelligence.

For many, the impersonal nature of automated systems can be an obstacle, especially when discussing sensitive health issues. The lack of a human touch can make these systems appear less reliable than someone who can give personalized advice and answer queries in real-time.

A chatbot is best used for answering simple and instant queries. When a patient needs detailed advice or is dealing with a sensitive issue, it’s best that they connect with a healthcare professional.

2. Adaptations to Overcome Incomplete Assessment

Many healthcare experts have realized that chatbots help with minor conditions, but the technology needs to advance to replace visits with healthcare professionals. The inability to record all the personal details linked with the user may result in procedural mistakes, raising penalties and new ethical issues. For all their apparent insight into how a user feels, they are machines and can’t show empathy. 

Chatbots can’t read body language, which delays the flow of information. If there is a brief gap in a conversation, the chatbot has to begin all over again. However, collaborative efforts are being made to adapt these applications to more challenging situations.

3. Solidifying Security to Prevent Data Hacking

Working with chatbots includes uploading confidential data, medical or financial, which the bot stores in the digital world. Such data can be hacked and privacy breaches can occur. Organizations need to be very careful when it comes to instances related to backup and storage. Authorized access needs to be provided only to personnel directly involved and ethical hackers can be consulted for improving the system.

4. Overwhelming Number of Options for Chatbots

Choosing the correct healthcare chatbot can be an overwhelming task. Healthcare chatbots need to be used as basic resources for getting health-related information or searching for doctors, but users must not completely depend on them. 

The use of chatbots has greatly improved the healthcare system; there is no doubt about this fact. Recognizing how to use them to benefit the organization is important for progress. Healthcare chatbots are vital for improving the efficiency of a healthcare organization in terms of analysis, scheduling, organizing abilities, communicative skills and more.

Despite the challenges they bring, employing chatbots to improve care delivery is essential. Rather than simply considering the business aspect, healthcare organizations need to be aware of the limitations and adopt appropriate steps to avoid them.

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