Patient: “Hey Google, get a refill of my statin.”
Google Assistant: “Your prescription request was sent to the pharmacy.”

Healthcare providers are looking for innovative ways to connect with patients. It’s all centered around one concept: redefining the patient experience. Chatbots are taking the place of traditional, stale IVR solutions in call centers, as chatbots are now smarter and more efficient. Voicebots are the next generation, taking automated, routine inquiries and reminders, and responding quickly on the patients’ own devices.

Voicebots could eventually be a game changer. We now have an entirely new user interface that can help those who are sick or disabled with specific tasks, like completing a survey or researching information without needing access to a computer or hand-held device. Voicebot technology can be the so-called bridge into a patient’s home, where much of healthcare is eventually going. At Maven Wave, we are already working with providers to help patients search for the nearest urgent care center, check wait times, ask to be put on a waitlist, and receive directions on their mobile devices. But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Patient: “Okay Google, when will I receive my statin?
Google home speaker: “Your prescription was filled today and will arrive by mail on Wednesday.”

When is a Voicebot or Chatbot Helpful?
Given the number of interactions and complexities with the patient/provider relationship, this is an area ripe for automation. But only some automation. Humans may not want to hear their diagnosis from a voicebot any more than they want their abnormal lab results announced from a smart speaker.

Voicebot and chatbot technologies can be huge cost savers. In the healthcare, banking and retail sectors, chatbots alone are expected to yield $11 billion in annual savings by 2023, increasing from $6 billion in 2018.i In just the healthcare and banking industries, Juniper Researchii estimated an $8 billion savings by 2022, with an average of 4 minutes in time savings per chatbot inquiry compared to a call center. In banking, that amounted to a 70 cent savings per interaction.

However, cost savings to the provider are only one benefit, which patients don’t care about because it doesn’t directly affect them. Here’s one of the benefits they do care about: people don’t want to be put on hold with annoying wait music for several minutes until an available staff member can hear their question. Some of these questions have simple answers, whether it be hours of service, location or how early to arrive for a visit. However, some questions less suited for chatbot assistance require the healthcare office to have a wealth of detailed information at their fingertips in order to respond quickly. With many different insurance plans in place, changing clinician schedules, and varying advice on how doctors want to handle specific ailments or situations, patient questions might require additional researching. This can lead to a negative experience for the patient and eat up valuable staff time.

Voicebots and chatbots are ideal for the repetitive, time consuming tasks that do not require human interaction. Of course, that requires top notch information be fed into the system during development, and it must be tested and maintained. The data bank of information should be robust, and the natural language processing system finely tuned. The system must also be advanced enough to provide accurate information to answer the question at hand and to recognize questions outside of its limits.

Patient: “Okay Google, ask my doctor to approve a refill of my kid’s antibiotics.
Google home speaker: “Your doctor wants you to schedule an appointment to see your child first. Shall I schedule an appointment for you?

Rising Acceptance of Chatbots and Voicebots
Consumers have become more comfortable with chatbots, and often may not realize that the machine is not actually backed by a human. Companies are jumping on board as well, with Gartneriii predicting that 40% of enterprises will include chatbots with natural language processing skills as part of their business processes.

While voicebot technology is disruptive, it’s also gaining wide acceptance. The Pew Research Centeriv found that 46% of Americans use digital voice assistants, and it can be used for both reactive and proactive purposes – exactly what’s needed in healthcare.

The senior sector of the market is getting on board, even though this group is often thought of as being nonadopters. Some senior housing groups are integrating voicebots or looking into itv. An eMarketer surveyvi found that 7.3% of those over age 65 used a smart speaker at least monthly in 2018. While that may not seem like a large percentage, it’s actually a 36% increase over the previous year. This number could easily rise higher for seniors encouraged and supported by family members or care organizations.

Especially given the sensitive nature of the provider/patient interaction, healthcare organizations need to consider the overall experience design of chatbots and voicebots from the start and work with expert partners. At Maven Wave, we study this evolving topic closely and help healthcare companies every day to integrate bots and other next-gen technology into their operations. We maintain an entire practice on experience design for enterprises, including creating and deploying bots tailored to specific use cases while ensuring the best possible user experience. Download our white paper to learn more about designing chatbots and voicebots.

Interested in learning more? Reach out to Maven Wave today to find out how bots can help improve your healthcare organization’s operations