How Chatbots Are Helping Healthcare Providers


Abhinav Raj

Abhinav Raj, Writer

On a seemingly baffling webpage, chatbots are your first point of contact. Here’s how chatbots have made their mark in the healthcare industry.

Among the many gifts yielded by artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots remain the less controversial ones in the market—however, across the internet, their utility has become undeniable. 

With the recent advancements in natural language processing (NLP), chatbots are more conversational and less ‘bot-like’. The exchanges are much more natural, fluid, and humanlike than ever before. This has attracted more companies across various sectors to adopt bots that help in customer service—such as helping users navigate a website, answering questions regarding services provided, and addressing queries that call for urgent attention. 

The influence of chatbots in the healthcare industry is becoming prevalent. Here’s how chatbots have been aiding healthcare service providers over the years. 

Reduced Cost, Reduced Effort 

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, the healthcare industry was faced with myriad challenges—including rising costs, high staff turnover, and disengagement with patients. 

Artificially intelligent chatbots were extensively deployed by many governmental bodies globally to mitigate the communication gap between people and healthcare practitioners amid the pandemic. 

In April 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) developed a chatbot to answer popular queries about the novel coronavirus disease which could be accessed through Facebook messenger and WhatsApp. It is estimated that the chatbot reached more than 12 million in the first month of its operation, and a total of 4.2 billion people globally by the end of 2020. 

Chatbots can function at odd times—thereby saving human effort for more specialized tasks while also reducing the cost of labour. 

24/7 Customer Service 

Image: World Health Organization

Medical practitioners can’t be expected to give advice everywhere, all at once. However, chatbots can function round-the-clock. 

Chatbots have afforded patients the flexibility to schedule and reschedule medical appointments at their convenience by providing a platform to effortlessly liaise with healthcare institutions. 

Matching patients with specialists, helping patients manage their appointments and providing advice on the latest guidelines issued by the government and other regulatory bodies are examples of functions being performed by chatbots that improve patient engagement immensely. 

Evaluation and Diagnosis, Pronto 

COVID-era chatbots bolstered the healthcare ecosystem by providing patients with a way to perform self-diagnosis, receive up-to-date information and guidelines whilst also simultaneously reducing the dissemination of misinformation.  

Chatbots employing natural language processing can analyze a patient’s symptoms and provide them with a diagnosis instantaneously without them having to consult a doctor. Some chatbots can also provide recommendations to patients based on their listed symptoms to alleviate their conditions. 

Artificial intelligence experts believe that chatbots will have a role to play in the dissemination of healthcare services in the coming years. 

“When we emerge from this crisis, chatbots are likely to become digital portals for interactive healthcare,” says Kay Firth-Butterfield, Head of AI and machine learning at the World Economic Forum. 

As industries extensively deploy chatbots in their online operations… would you trust a chatbot?