Healthcare Technology Featured Article

October 04, 2017

How Chatbots Can Solve Low Patient Engagement Problem



According to recent studies held by Google and Pew Research Center, today one in twenty Google searches is for health related information, with 80% of Internet users seeking online health information.

Healthcare technology across web, mobile, apps and wearables gains more active users yearly (see image 1). According to Accenture, engagement of medical apps and wearables doubled in two years. At the same time, the number of people that avoid addressing their healthcare needs to various technological solutions decreased in two during the same period. In other words, technology and electronic health management tools continue gathering momentum, with apps and wearables in the lead in terms of growth speed.

Image 1. Credit: Accenture

However, the same Accenture research shows that the growing audience of medical apps addresses health-related needs to digital in fitness or nutrition/diet related situations, while medication managers and chronic disease trackers are adopted at a much lesser scale (see image 2).

Image 2. Credit: Accenture

The most plausible reason of such gap is low patient engagement that has already became a buzzed issue in healthcare. In fact, it has got special attention from healthcare technology companies dedicated to develop efficient solutions to this problem.

Two-Sided Cause of Low Patient Engagement

1. Existing solutions are intuitive, but not intuitive enough

Take medical apps such as reminders and trackers. Despite being perfectly UI/UX designed, they still lack personalization and the sense of time. Creators might have thought through average behavioral and schedule preferences of app users – wake-up time, working hours, work-out itinerary, and adjusted pings and notifications respectively.

However, as everyone’s schedule is different, lack of in-app personalization results in low user response, hence, low patient engagement in the long run. It doesn’t matter how timely 9-o’clock notification to check blood sugar level is. When a patient is stuck in traffic, he or she won’t respond to the app’s ping and most probably miss the procedure.

2. Low patient activation

Another problem of patient engagement stands at the very start of patient’s adoption. Patient activation in one’s healthcare – interest and active involvement – directly determines further engagement.

Technology solutions such as apps, wearables and EHR play major role in increasing patient activation, as more healthcare information becomes available and manageable. However, current generation of technology solutions still has room for improvement. Up to this date, the problems of solutions unable to hook the attention of patients for long or simply helpless for patients with special needs (mental illness, speech or vision disorders) remain.

Future state of mHealth that brings further infusing AI-based technologies, shift to digital omnivores for omnichannel experience, as well as management and security of massive healthcare data is to contribute to the increase of patient activation. In the long run, new features of mHealth solutions will change the rates of patient engagement.

New Technology to Solve Patient Engagement

Apart from the development of existing mHealth, telemedicine and healthcare wearables, hardware and software, new generation of solutions steps in to solve patient engagement problem.

Chatbots that already have broad application in e-commerce, travel and hospitality are predicted to take active part in increasing patient engagement. Along with chatbots for education, chatbots for healthcare are not expected to be complex to diagnose or provide automated medical analysis. At least, not yet. However, there’s a number of cases where this technology will shine, probably, better than traditional apps or non-digital solutions.

4 Features of Healthcare Chatbots that Help in Patient Engagement

1. Chatbots skip activation gateway

Chatbots are mobile native, like apps. Unlike apps, most chatbots are placed into popular messengers. The main benefit in this case, apart from no-need-to-download, is instant activation and feedback, 24/7/365.

Bot operates inside familiar interfaces of existing apps that billions of people use daily. It’s the most valuable benefit for less tech savvy patients of different generations that find it hard to adjust to fast changing design trends on mobile. So as for patients with special needs who may require simpler and more intuitive interfaces to interact with.

2. Chatbots react to emergency fast

If a chatbot is integrated into an active healthcare system and connected to special institutes such as ER, it can promptly alarm and call for help in case of emergency. If a bot has proper functionality, it can even detect the case of emergency, for example, when the patient doesn’t respond to bot’s messages. Another bonus is chatbot interface – text and voice. In case of danger, chatbot provides better reaction to the command “call 911,” compared to app or traditional phone that requires at least activation or dial.

3. Chatbots are more personal

Personalization is a true gem of chatbot technology. Constantly collecting patient data, a personal virtual healthcare assistant adjusts to patient’s specifics in time.

For example, bots powered by NLP technology can adjust to the speech and auditory specifics of the patients with special needs. Recent development in computer vision, in turn, is of help to the patients with visual disability. In other words, chatbots can be more sensitive to individual needs, which moves them closer to medical robots. Still chatbots cost far less than ASIMO or similar robots.

4. Chatbots are omnichannel

Another advantage of chatbot technology is its scalability. This technology is adjustable to mobile environment when it inhabits messenger apps such as Slack, Facebook Messenger, Skype, Kik or Telegram, integrates to web if embedded to websites and lives in voice assistants such as Skills for Amazon Alexa devices or Google Home. Moreover, bots are easily integrated with third-party systems through various APIs.

As far as chatbot application in healthcare is concerned, scalability brings better availability and more consistent experience. For example, one chatbot can perform vitally important functions such as calling an ER in case of emergency across various devices, whichever is closer or on. It gives more intuitive notifications, for instance, on iPhone when a patient is on the move, via web when one is at work and in Alexa when a patient is at home.

These are the key features of chatbots that help to increase patient engagement. Personalization and leveraging of patient data allows bots to be timely and to the point. Text and voice interface helps chatbot technology adjust to specific patient needs and simplify interaction. While scalability and connectivity turns bots into a convenient point of contact across various devices.

However, these are not the only ones that matter. Further adaption of chatbot technology, development of various branches of AI and integration capabilities may help bots drastically change both the rate of patient engagement and the way patients apply healthcare solutions.




Edited by Mandi Nowitz




comments powered by Disqus


FREE eNewsletter

Click here to receive your targeted Healthcare Technology Community eNewsletter.
[Subscribe Now]

UMA is a revolutionary marketplace that connects patients and doctors -- without the hassle of insurance. UMA connects patients to doctors conveniently and efficiently. Learn More >>