The future of conversational AI and health care

Consumer-driven tech has shown us how technology can enrich and ease our day-to-day lives. As patients we expect the same level of service and digital solutions within the healthcare experience.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve seen an increase in the need for contactless devices in health care, with mobile phone companies changing their business models to deliver healthcare industry products over consumer-facing technology.

We have seen the opportunity where conversational AI, cloud services and voice can be integrated into patient care, enabling a more connected and consumer-driven digital experience.

New and engaging patient experiences are becoming available on a range of platforms that allow for automated and contactless care via smart speakers, over the phone or a text line, web chat and Facebook Messenger. Communication technologies that we use every day are now becoming integrated into the future of patient care with the use of simple voice-activated commands.

As a conversation-first digital agency, we’re excited to see this shift. We’ve identified three key technological trends to prepare your business for the future of patient care.

Being connected to care when and where you need it

As many patients have moved to telehealth during COVID-19, healthcare providers are having to move to a more accessible and virtual model — providing support to a network of patients who are seeking information, comfort and even company from anywhere, around the clock.

Technology is helping clinicians connect to patients wherever they are, while conversational assistants and automation are helping patients begin their care journeys. Healthcare organisations could consider online interfaces such as websites, apps and smart speakers as the first point of care with patients.

Virtual health assistants and chatbots aim to improve the conversation between healthcare providers, carers and patients. They put more information in the hands of the end users and help healthcare organisations improve processes and reduce costs.

Virtual health assistants are being designed to help patients find information about health conditions, medications and procedures, and are improving administrative processes like proactive follow-up, sending and/or scheduling appointments and even daily medication reminders.

This trend will continue to grow. Hadas Bitran, Group Manager for Microsoft Healthcare Israel, said, “As virtual health assistants become more integrated with the healthcare system, their role will expand.”

Contactless interfaces can save lives

Rethinking the patient journey using voice and other contactless or personal user interfaces is helping organisations think outside the box to deliver life-saving solutions.

This is particularly relevant within the hospice or palliative care space, where patients are in constant need for high levels of care and require regular checks. In-person touchpoints between any two individuals increases the risk of contamination and exposure to viruses — especially in today’s environment.

Removing face-to-face contact reduces the risk for vulnerable patients while maintaining care and connection through contactless devices.

In the US, 72% of patients in elderly care feel lonely. Just recently The Ohio State University has been developing ‘socially assistive robots’ to stem loneliness and encourage activity among ageing populations.

Combining automation with conversation is an example of conversational AI, allowing patients to be connected in a safe and contactless manner. It permits human interactions through conversational interfaces that may be delivered via text, voice or video to keep the patient connected with their loved ones or caregivers. This holistic approach supports the patient’s overall wellbeing and mental health.

Creating a holistic view of patient care

Remote or contactless patient care has raised the importance of centralised storage of patient records and data. Data delivery from multiple sources in a single dashboard provides clinicians with real-time, actionable information that empowers them to make better, data-driven care decisions.

Cloud services allow multiple digital touchpoints, data sources and isolated services to be visible in one simple solution. This means the patient, the clinician and the hospital or healthcare provider are interconnected throughout the care journey — information being passed on is automated, keeping the patient’s care holistic, accessible and updated.

We know there are opportunities with AI, cognitive technology and cloud services that can centralise patient data. The interconnectivity of cloud solutions means that a hospital or specialist doesn’t act in isolation. The centralisation of patient records in the cloud provides capabilities to deliver better experiences, better insights and ultimately better patient care.

Think of this for a patient who is receiving ongoing care for a type of cancer from a range of specialists, or even new parents who’ve just found out they’re having a baby. When care is provided across multiple touchpoints, the cloud ensures the patient’s history, context and specialist recommendations are brought together.

The power of conversational AI, virtual assistants in helping healthcare organisations

Voice and conversational technologies can support the extended care network of patients. These services broaden the healthcare ecosystem to build better ways to connect patients and their families to carers and medical specialists.

*Alex Murrey is Global Head of Partnerships at VERSA.

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