Last year was marked by the Covid-19 pandemic, and in 2021 we experienced both the consequences of prolonged isolation and economic fluctuations. Telemedicine showed even the sceptics that it deserves a place among the effective medical practices. No one can deny that modern technology makes life more convenient as it connects us with healthcare specialists and offers us access to an enormous range of information. Chatbots and other digital healthcare tools proved themselves invaluable during lockdowns, but what place will they have in the “new normal” world?
From my experience working in a bespoke software development company, I know the significant impact that reliable and innovative software solutions have on businesses. Chatbots are special software that uses Machine Learning (ML) algorithms like Natural Language Processing (NLP) to facilitate the connection between patients and healthcare specialists and medical institutions. When it comes to telemedicine, a chatbot is often the first encounter a patient has while deciding whether to trust a particular healthcare provider.
That is why so many successful businesses invest in implementing intelligent chatbots to provide basic information and navigate an online user through their platforms. Now, let’s review some of the significant chatbot applications in a post-pandemic time:
Chatbots Can Help Limit Misinformation
Among the most obvious benefits of employing a chatbot in healthcare are to provide immediate information for users and to handle large amounts of queries all at once. Providing accurate on-demand information was also the goal behind the World Health Organisation’s chatbot initiative. As misinformation was virally spreading across the community, the need for reliable multilanguage info source was in demand.
While the digital age offers us abundant information on health topics, it is rather difficult for ordinary people and patients to find trustworthy information online. Some articles on the web are not reviewed by actual medical professionals, which makes their health advice not only misleading but, in some cases, potentially dangerous. When it comes to Covid-19, there are millions of people driven by fear who read and spread false medical news without fact-checking. Chatbots can be useful tools and channels that deliver credible authentic information to communities. In a post-pandemic world, specially developed bots can be trusted to offer patients personalised health-related info and lifestyle recommendations.
Chatbots Can Boost Mental Wellbeing
Prototypes of machines that assist disabled or elderly patients in everyday activities and help improve the mental health of others have been around for decades. The technology behind such computer capabilities is called conversational AI, and as it advances further, patients can benefit from almost human-like interactions. Especially during prolonged pandemic-related isolations, our mental health suffers. Still, there are vulnerable social groups with limited access to professional psychological services, but here is how chatbots can prove themselves effective.
There is no doubt that Covid-19 made us lonelier, more anxious and even desperate for interaction. The search for mental health professionals surged in 2020, and waitlists kept growing longer. To ease the overwhelmed healthcare facilities, numerous therapists took part in the development process of chatbots to make therapy more affordable and accessible for the wider audience. Software developers can code a special interactional tone and attitude of the chatbot to react to particular user’s keywords such as “depressed” or “anxiety”. It is likely that therapy chatbots will still be in demand once the pandemic is over as more and more people find it helpful to reach out for help to vent frustrations.
Chatbots Will Facilitate Healthcare Transformation
Powerful AI and ML algorithms have an unfair advantage against us humans. They can analyse enormous amounts of data, detect patterns and make predictions. Most importantly, machines can identify subtle warnings within a message or a pattern that a real person can sometimes miss due to distractions or lack of proper sleep. These risks can be avoided using AI-powered telemedical platforms, and chatbots and recent healthcare trends gravitate around data-driven approaches to improve patient’s health status.
Many advanced chatbots can give medical advice based on doctor’s supervision during the software development process. Some innovative solutions even go a step further and attempt to make changes on a broader level. For instance, in a hospital setting, an easy to integrate modular tool that is secure and reliable is indispensable. Doctors and medical staff are with busy schedules, so they need a privacy-preserving platform that enables data sharing between patients and doctors and between healthcare providers. The need for similar software solutions that ease whole communication processes within the healthcare system will be more than necessary from now on.
Chatbots Offer High-Quality Medical Prevention
As a part of telemedical services, chatbots can come in a variety of forms and use cases. They can be equipped with functionalities like patient monitoring, automated notifications and reminders, virtual assistance, medical data sharing, access to personalised EHR (Electronic Health Record) etc. Perhaps the most important one is that carefully designed and elaborate chatbots can help during prevention campaigns for many diseases such as HIV, drug addictions, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and even suicide.
The data processing capabilities of AI grow rapidly, it is crucial to use technological solutions that contribute to a sustainable healthcare system that is patient-centred. Preventive measures are always going to be cheaper than actual treatment plans, bringing both health and economic benefits that need to be considered. That is why it is wiser to invest in interactive chatbots and apps that precisely target the public and timely inform them about potential risk factors. For example, these can help measure and assess unique personal risk factors, e.g. smoking, drinking, low physical activity, poor nutrition and give adequate recommendations for lifestyle changes.
Chatbots Combine The Best of Human and Technology
Human expertise mixed with technology advancements is a combination that is likely to produce powerful results for the quality of medical services. Indeed, no chatbot can effectively pronounce a final diagnosis nor prescribe medications. Such apps usually focus on symptom checking and, based on this input, produce a differential diagnosis.
Although most people dial national hotlines in an actual emergency situation, when bots notice some concerning input, they can directly connect patients with doctors for a consultation. Also, already gathered and saved information in the chat can be automatically sent to doctors who can handle it faster if the situation requires immediate attention or the patient can’t respond or remember vital personal medical information.
Biography Aleksandrina Vasileva
Aleksandrina is a Content Creator at Dreamix, a custom software development company, and is keen on innovative technological solutions with a positive impact on our world. Her teaching background, mixed with interests in psychology, drives her to share knowledge. She is an avid reader and enthusiastic blogger, always looking for the next inspiration.