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This article is part of our Essential Guide: How healthcare AI technology might improve patient outcomes

AI messaging in healthcare can enhance the patient experience

With the ability to deliver information like lab results and appointment reminders 24/7, AI-enabled messaging allows patients to be more proactive about their healthcare.

Patients who interact with health systems are reminded to take advantage of digital means to gain access to their...

health records and care team. The push is part of the pursuit of health organizations to increase patient engagement and get them to actively participate in their care. Hospitals and medical practices have resorted to web portals, SMS, mobile apps, kiosks and care coordinators to deliver digital communication to patients. While many of those avenues have shown promising results, texting is still by far one of the most popular means of communication for patients. So what impact would the next generation of AI messaging have on patients and healthcare?

The use of mobile devices has turned texting into a common habit consumers use regularly to communicate with others. Patients have already seen its applications in healthcare where they are able to receive alerts such as appointment and medication reminders. Texting has also been used by some care providers to communicate with patients. Tools like QliqSoft and TigerConnect provide HIPAA-compliant messaging that allows physicians to communicate with each other and with patients securely.

With the ongoing push to get patients more engaged in their care and with their healthcare team, texting alone has shown very little effectiveness since it is limited to basic communication and requires clinical or administrative staff to manage and respond to complex inquiries. As a result, many patients either turn to the web portals or simply call their doctor's office to inquire about specific information they are seeking. But with the introduction of AI-based customer service communication and messaging systems, healthcare may finally get the answer to their patient engagement and messaging needs.

Instead of forcing patients to move away from texting to other means of communication, intelligent AI messaging allows them to make complex requests and then interact with a bot or the software behind the scenes that can understand their inquiry and respond accordingly. Platforms like Msg.ai and several others by Google, Microsoft and Amazon are able to deliver intelligent systems that can interact with scheduling, billing and even clinical systems to allow a bot to retrieve information that a patient is asking about. AI messaging can be used to address patient text requests in any of the following areas:

  • recent lab results
  • prescribed medication and use
  • scheduling or rescheduling appointments
  • patient education
  • office hours, directions or contact information
  • symptoms and basic medical advice

The use of AI messaging delivers information to patients 24/7 with very little friction as it relies on a popular means of communication for patients. Hospitals will certainly join other industries in this move toward using virtual customer assistants and texting to take advantage of automated self-service capabilities with the option to escalate to human agents when needed. Earlier this year, Gartner predicted that 25% of customer service operations will use virtual customer assistants by 2020. In healthcare, this would not only impact patient satisfaction, but patient engagement as well.

With hospitals looking to improve patient satisfaction scores and engagement, the use of AI messaging will offer an easy way to deliver relevant information to their patients. By using texting as a way to communicate, patients will find it much easier to inquire about health information and may eventually move toward using verbal interactions as well.

This was last published in July 2018

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