The Rise of AI-Powered Chatbots in the Healthcare Industry
Medical chatbots powered by artificial intelligence are becoming more commonplace in the healthcare industry changing the way patients receive information and communicate with doctors.
of David Hawig, Germany
Chatbots are commonplace in ecommerce settings, providing convenient ways to improve the customer experience. At one time or another many of us have conversed with a bot to complain about a missing order, reserve a hotel room or to help us decide which toppings sprinkle on our takeaway pizzas. Such is their sophistication that some consumers don’t even realize they're conversing with a software program and thanks to artificial intelligence they are becoming more lifelike than ever before.
Chatbots are programs that imitate human spoken and/or written conversation. The name comes from "chatterbot" which was coined by inventor Michael Mauldin who developed Julia, the first chatbot to be made with a software program called Verbot. They "learn" by discovering patterns in the large amounts of data they are trained with and the more interactions with humans the better they become. They use artificial intelligence, in the form of machine learning, deep learning and natural-language processing.
The Chatbot Will Take Your Questions
In recent years chatbot technology has started to gain traction in the healthcare industry with an ever increasing number of bots helping to connect patients with providers as well as offering a host of other services. They can better organize patient pathways, medication management and offer solutions for simpler medical issues.
One of the most widely known chatbots for healthcare use is Florence, named after the Florence Nightingale, the English social reformer and founder of modern nursing. It started life in 2016 as a hobby project of David Hawig, a German entrepreneur, and researcher, and was launched a year later.
This chatbot is a personal health assistant that reminds users to take their medication or birth control pills and helps them keep track of their body weight, mood and other health issues. All users have to do is start chatting with Florence inside a messaging platform, like Skype, Kik or Facebook messenger.
Among the other algorithm-powered chatbots that are helping to make life easier for patients are:
Safedrugbot - a chatbot messaging service for health professionals who need appropriate information about the use of drugs during breastfeeding. It provides informative guides for doctors and others who are working with pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Your.MD - this chatbot is fundamentally a symptom checker powered by artificial intelligence. Users type in their symptoms and the chatbot selects the best questions to help define the problem and identify the most relevant health information. If needed it recommends relevant services, products and next steps. Your.MD is not intended as a replacement for doctors, but it can cut down the number of patient visits to practices which most of the time are for minor ailments.
Buoy Health - this is another symptom checker with an algorithm that was trained on clinical data from thousands of medical papers covering five million patients and around 1,700 conditions.
Improving Patient Care
Chatbot technology is evolving all the time as it continues to shape personalized healthcare services, drastically reducing the time it takes to receive important information and ultimately improving patient care.
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