Guest Post: How Conversational AI Will Improve the Standard of Healthcare

Tuesday, October 9th, 2018
This post was written by Ram Menon

Conversational AI will be the crucial part in improving what is known as “retail” healthcare as well as the bulk of interactions patients have with the healthcare system.

In the past year, there have been countless stories on how artificial intelligence (AI) will change the healthcare system. Some of the headlines from the past few months include AI that can detect skin cancers as accurately as trained physicians; AI that allows for more precise X-ray readings and AI systems that can scan for signs of diabetic retinopathy. A brave new world of healthcare is developing each day; recent reports indicate that the AI health market could be worth more than $34 billion by 2025.

Conversational AI—a system that allows computers to speak to humans in lifelike ways—is an integral part of the changes in the healthcare industry that isn’t discussed as often. Nonetheless, it will be the crucial part in improving what is known as “retail” healthcare as well as the bulk of interactions patients have with the healthcare system.

Conversational AI offers a standard of personalized care unavailable now with existing resources. In the coming years, it will help reduce the number of visits to doctors and ensure patients only need to visit emergency rooms during an actual emergency, and provide a universal standard of personalized care now available to very few patients.

Here are the ways conversational AI is improving healthcare as we speak and what we can expect soon.

Conversation AI Remakes Provider Access:

Here’s what happened in the past when you had a non-emergency medical issue: you left a message for your doctor and waited days for them to call back. With conversational AI you can reach your provider at any point, perhaps to send them a message or a photo of a condition or side effect you want to be checked. You can also book an appointment based on a doctor’s name and expertise. Virtual medical assistants will soon be available on channels like Google Home, Alexa, and elsewhere.

Conversational AI offers access that isn’t intrusive to a provider and yet gives patients ease of mind that their concerns will be answered in a timely fashion. In the future, virtual assistants will take that a step further by confidentiality tracking conversations between doctors and patients, possibly even using that to create a patient chart.

Conversational AI Will Help Medication Management, Claims Processing:

If you suffer from a chronic condition like diabetes or arthritis it’s easy to get bewildered by complicated instructions on how and when to take medications or when to follow up on troublesome symptoms. With conversational AI, a virtual assistant can offer reminders about taking medication, answer basic questions about conditions even direct patients to advice on how to improve their wellness and information on lifestyle changes.

Healthcare maintenance is often about the small things that people overlook because they can’t get a simple answer. That could mean finding out if they should take antibiotics with a meal or on an empty stomach or simple resources on getting active. Providing a better way to quickly but accurately follow healthcare plans can reduce an enormous burden on both the patient and the system.

Keeping on top of health insurance claims is also a challenge. Using a virtual assistant, healthcare members can check their existing coverage, file for claims, and track the status of their claims. In many cases, they can do it when they are still visiting the doctor or getting help.

In The Future— Virtual Urgent Care:

Many healthcare providers and HMOs have software in place that allows nurses to meet “virtually” with a patient using a video system that works much like Skype. Technology is in the works that will allow a virtual assistant to diagnose certain conditions and provide limited care. For example, a patient reporting symptoms of a urinary tract infection—a common illness in women—could describe symptoms to the virtual assistant. The assistant could prescribe antibiotics you could pick up at your local pharmacy. This is much easier than an in-person visit, which is often unnecessary for routine conditions.

Ram Menon

Ram Menon

About the Author: Ram Menon is the CEO and co-founder of Avaamo. Previously, he was president of social computing at TIBCO. He founded the division and built the business from scratch into a leader in social business software with nine million paid users in just two years. Prior to joining TIBCO, Ram was with Accenture, a global consulting firm, where he specialized in supply chain and e-commerce strategy consulting with Global 500 companies.

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