Trust is the foundation of any successful relationship, and nowhere is it more critical than healthcare. Patients entrust their lives and well-being to healthcare providers to deliver personalized and empathetic care.
What does trust in healthcare look like? Let’s look at the patient’s perspective. Does the patient believe that the healthcare provider will act in their best interest and that they genuinely care about their well-being? Does the provider seem to have the necessary knowledge and competence?
Trust is a critical component in the patient-provider relationship. It contributes to the patient’s willingness to follow medical advice, adherence to treatment plans, and overall satisfaction with their care experience. However, this can be a challenging task in today’s world of growing healthcare demands and patient volume.
As a health care system, how do you support your providers as they navigate patient attention, quality care and large caseloads? Traditionally, the solution would be to add more support staff, which can be costly and inefficient.
Enter conversational AI — advanced technology designed to understand, interpret, and respond to human language. By integrating conversational AI into healthcare systems, providers can deliver personalized and highly responsive care at a previously unimaginable scale. Let’s explore how conversational AI is transforming the healthcare landscape, helping to build trust and maintain relationships with patients while enhancing the quality of care.
Using Conversational AI to Build Patient Trust
Healthcare providers are often overwhelmed with the number of patients they need to attend to daily, leading to gaps in communication and one-on-one interactions. According to a study by Harvard Medical School, primary care physicians have an average of 20.3 patient appointments per day, which leaves little time for in-depth discussions and personal attention to each patient.
When integrated with healthcare systems, conversational AI can play a vital role in filling the gaps in human interactions. With natural language processing and machine learning capabilities, conversational AI can intelligently respond to patient queries, offer personalized treatment advice, and even monitor for potential complications.
Digital Experiences With a Human Touch
Studies have shown that trust is essential for patient adherence to treatment plans, positively influencing health outcomes. Conversational AI can build patient trust by maintaining consistent, personalized communication when the provider is not available.
Through SMS notification and secure web or app-based conversations, healthcare providers can offer 24/7 support and information, allowing patients to ask questions, book appointments, get reminders about medication and receive follow-up care tailored to their situation. The content can be converted from doctors’ notes to layman’s terms and delivered at their level of understanding. This personalization and engagement help maintain trust and strengthen the relationship between patients and healthcare providers.
Several renowned healthcare providers have successfully integrated conversational AI into their systems, and the results have been encouraging. A study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research revealed that a conversational AI system significantly improved patient engagement and satisfaction levels compared to traditional care methods.
Similarly, a survey by Accenture found that 77% of patients who used AI-powered virtual health assistants reported that the experience helped them manage their conditions more effectively. These numbers demonstrate that thoughtfully implemented conversational AI can help scale trust and deliver a more personalized care experience for patients.
Use Multilingual Conversational AI for Comprehensive Patient Engagement
Imagine a healthcare system that caters to a diverse patient base consisting of people who speak various languages. In such a scenario, the communication challenge becomes significant, as providing personalized care and building trust necessitates effective communication in a patient's native language.
To address this challenge, the patient hub could utilize a conversational AI platform with built-in multilingual capabilities. This platform would have natural language processing algorithms to understand patients’ inquiries in multiple languages and provide instant translations of the required content. This might sound like a distant fantasy but with the rapid advancement of large language models like GPT4 this type of translation can be performed today.
For example, a Spanish-speaking patient with questions about their prescribed medication could initiate a conversation with the healthcare hub’s AI-powered chatbot. The chatbot would understand the patient’s inquiry in Spanish and access the hub’s database to fetch the relevant information. The chatbot would then translate and present the information to the patient in Spanish. This process would be followed for other languages, ensuring all patients receive personalized, language-specific care.
This multilingual conversational AI empowers the healthcare organization to engage with patients in their preferred language and enables the providers to scale trust to their entire patient population without increasing the number of staff who speak multiple languages.
By delivering instant translations and highly personalized content, the healthcare organization can effectively build strong patient relationships, regardless of the languages spoken by their patients. This approach would redefine patient engagement, opening up new possibilities for healthcare providers to cater to a diverse, multilingual patient community.
When to Use AI and When Not to Use AI
While conversational AI has proven to be a valuable asset for healthcare providers, there are specific scenarios where human intervention is critical and trying to replace it with automation would erode trust. There have been a number of studies that show how conversational technology is being embraced positively by patients. And, conversely, several studies have identified care moments, when the human touch is vital.
When to use AI:
Answering general patient inquiries and frequently asked questions: A study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research demonstrated that a conversational AI system significantly improved patient engagement and satisfaction levels when compared to traditional care methods.
Booking and managing appointments: A survey by Accenture found that 77% of patients who used AI-powered virtual health assistants reported that the experience helped them manage their conditions more effectively.
Sending medication and appointment reminders: A study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research showed that an AI-powered chatbot improved medication adherence in patients with chronic conditions.
Providing personalized health tips and recommendations based on patient data: A review published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found that AI-driven personalized health interventions significantly improved health outcomes when compared to traditional care methods.
Assisting in preliminary symptom assessment and triage: A study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research showed that AI-powered symptom checkers could accurately assess and triage patients, reducing the burden on healthcare professionals.
When not to use AI:
When delivering sensitive news: Physicians should be the ones communicating with patients directly. A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that patients prefer receiving serious news from their physicians.
When discussing complex treatment plans: Patients may have concerns and questions requiring professional clarification. In these situations, healthcare providers need to tailor their language and explanations to the patient's level of understanding and should not attempt to automate these interactions.
When addressing mental health concerns a human touch is critical: A study published in BMC Psychiatry found that patients preferred face-to-face interactions with healthcare professionals over digital tools for mental health care.
Conversational AI has been steadily gaining traction in the healthcare industry. As a powerful tool for scaling trust and maintaining strong patient-provider relationships, it has the potential to revolutionize the way healthcare providers deliver care.
By leveraging AI-driven automation, healthcare providers can ensure personalized, timely, and empathetic interactions with their patients, creating a higher level of trust and satisfaction.
Perspectives on Delivering Digital Conversations to Patients
At Lifelink Systems, we have spent the past six years designing and deploying conversational AI at large healthcare organizations and pharmaceutical companies, including Genentech, UBC, and Banner Health. The experiences of rolling out advanced conversational tools that are designed to improve patient experiences across a spectrum of different care scenarios has taught us a lot.
We recognize the importance of building a relationship on the foundation of trust in healthcare and the potential of conversational AI to foster and maintain it.
It is important to focus on understanding the specific challenges and requirements of each healthcare organization in order to develop customized conversational AI solutions that align with their goals. AI-enhanced virtual assistants designed to enhance patient engagement, improve communication, and ultimately help build trust between patients and healthcare providers is the future. It is no longer a matter of if, but rather when.
These solutions are taking a lot of administrative burden off of the shoulder of overworked, exhausted human teams by handling a number of routine, high volume tasks, such as:
Providing personalized and timely responses to patient inquiries
Automating appointment scheduling and management processes
Offering multilingual support to cater to diverse patient populations
Monitoring patient progress and provide intervention when needed
At the same time, it is important to understand that conversational AI is one tool among many in the healthcare landscape. We must continuously strive to strike the right balance between leveraging the power of AI and recognizing the essential role of human empathy and understanding in healthcare.
Conversational AI is destined to be an integral part of all healthcare in the future. The economics of healthcare will force change. The enhanced patient experience will likely be the icing on the cake.