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article imageQ&A: Are chatbots the answer to healthcare improvements? Special

By Tim Sandle     Jun 12, 2018 in Health
Patients are sometimes stuck waiting for their doctors and results, making numerous phone calls and leaving messages, making it a very frustrating experience. Are chatbots the answer to this supply and demand dilemma?
Technology is finding new ways for healthcare to be more seamless for patients and clinicians. This means many companies are turning to and creating chatbots to help assist their clients and patients, but there are limitations with how effective these are?
One company, CareThrough, uses ‘human navigators’ and it has partnered with LifeLink’s advanced conversational patient engagement platform to help patients utilize their chatbots to connect with their human navigator.
To discover more about this application of artificial intelligence Digital Journal caught up with President of CareThrough, Kyle Cooksey.
Digital Journal: What is the state of healthcare today?
Kyle Cooksey: We are in a consumer-driven healthcare era. Healthcare systems have had to develop innovative ways to deliver compassionate care beyond the clinical setting. To fulfill the growing need for patient-centered solutions, physicians can deploy highly-skilled Navigators to offer a variety of customized services. From scheduling referral appointments, to ensuring medication adherence, Navigators work closely with doctors to enable continuous communication with patients who may need help understanding why certain things are much more important and need prompting than they may realize.
DJ: How is healthcare being disrupted by technology?
Cooksey: The healthcare sector is seeing rapid change, driven through digital technologies. This includes the Internet making research faster for doctors; technology helping doctors provide better diagnosis; and the use of tablets for taking notes in our exam room. But it also comes with the added challenges that proper documentation within an EMR present. This tool was supposed to streamline patient care, but it is actually putting stress on the patient-physician relationship and is a driving factor behind the physician burnout crisis that we are currently seeing more and more of everyday.
DJ: How common are chatbots becoming?
Cooksey: Chatbots in business today are about as common as Amazon Alexa is for your home. When most of us think about the last time that we interacted with a chatbot, the automatic refill call for the pharmacy, or the online chat feature that some websites force you to use come to mind.
But LifeLink's chatbots are much more sophisticated than that. For our patient's, the interaction with our chatbots can actually begin prior to even arriving at the ER. They can let the patient know what the average and current wait times are for the nearby hospitals. Once they check in, they can find out when it will be their turn to see the doctor and also get important reminders while they wait. It alerts them when they doctor is ready to see them and can even let them know when the doctor will return to their room. And once they leave the ER, their discharge instructions can be sent directly to their phone.
DJ: What is the difference between artificial intelligence and CareThrough’s Human Navigators?
Cooksey: Artificial Intelligence is definitely nothing to sneeze at. Advancements are being made daily, and that is a great thing. But behind every great machine is a great mind and that is still true in today's highly technological climate. The key is to know the limits of both, and marry the two to find the best solution. Artificial Intelligence cannot provide the compassion and thoughtfulness that our Navigators can. We've found that combining AI with our Navigators, patients quickly get the information they are seeking and a dedicated care team member to ensure seamless communication.
DJ: How did your partnership with LifeLink come about?
Cooksey: Our clients are always looking for smart technology to serve a range of populations, from the 75-year-old patient to the millennial, across the care continuum. The common denominator is that they all rely on and use mobile phone-based messaging and chat. The technology is transformative.
We partnered with LifeLink because their chatbots transform our navigators’ ability to reduce patient anxiety and steer them in the right direction, towards the next point of care. LifeLink’s advanced conversational patient engagement platform gives patients care-related concierge services via mobile phone-based messaging.
DJ: What has been the response from patients?
Cooksey: At first patients are a bit weary of adding another person into their personal lives, there is a lot of information sharing, but once they are introduced to their navigator, and realize that they are a knowledgeable resource for them to turn to with questions, care navigation can be a game changer for patients and families. The key is consistency in communication after the patient leaves the care setting.
DJ: How about the medical profession, what are their thoughts?
Cooksey: We recently had a CEO of a health system praise a care navigator for authentically connecting with patients to arrange transportation and assess care plans. Systems are challenged with balancing the needs and demands stemming from various risk populations and the cost of doing that business.
The augmentation of our Navigation teams, fueled by technology, allows top-of-license strategies to be realized, all the while maintaining fiscally responsible approaches to real demands. And because of that, outcomes are better, particularly around quality metrics.] It’s difficult to measure quality care, but this health system was able to provide un-paralleled service with a navigator embedded in their care team.
DJ: What other projects are you working on?
Cooksey: Population health management is a complex area where we drive value for our partners. We analyze health systems' patient populations and solve for social determinants of health factors that may be barriers to care. From lack of transportation to food insufficiency, we look at each unique population and connect patients to community resources.
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