Smarter Patient Experience: A Beginner’s Guide to AI in Healthcare

Artificial intelligence (aka AI) is a term that gets bandied about a lot these days. Yet while AI is a hot buzzword in healthcare and beyond, it’s not often clearly defined.

Before you can decide if AI-powered digital tools are right for your organization, it helps to know what artificial intelligence actually is. The good news? It’s a lot less complicated than you probably think.

Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare: Enhancing Chat

First, the basics. Artificial intelligence is simply a tool. It’s a computer system that performs tasks that traditionally require human brainpower (like language translation or making predictions about consumer behavior). AI is the technology that allows companies to predict what movies or music you like based on your previous purchases, and it’s the brains inside self-driving cars.

AI gets its real magic from something called machine learning: the ability of the system to “learn” from the inputs it receives and improve over time.

So, how can AI improve the digital patient experience? Healthcare technology is often complicated. Most everyone knows how to use Google to search for a word or phrase. But once they get to a hospital or health system website, it’s not always obvious where to go next.

Enter AI programs that engage in conversation with a user through voice or text. By asking questions and conversing with a user, these so-called chatbots can look beyond search terms to work out a user’s intent. Whether she’s looking to schedule an appointment, answer a billing question, find a new doctor or get reliable information about a medical condition, chatbots can help steer her to the right place.

Digital Partnership: Humans Plus AI

If you want to improve your patients’ digital experience, you might be reluctant to hand customer service over to a computer. Good news! You don’t have to. AI doesn’t replace humans. In fact, it needs them as partners in order to work as designed.

In the beginning, humans train the tool to match certain phrases (“pay for parking”) to certain answers or suggestions (a page with information on hospital parking locations and fees). As the bot interacts with more and more users, machine learning kicks in and the tool gets better and better. So when a person types “North Lot rates” into the search bar, the bot understands, even though the terms “pay” and “parking” are nowhere to be seen.

Healthcare systems are all a bit different, of course. So there is no perfect, one-size-fits-all healthcare chatbot. At Loyal, we help our customers by training the AI for their unique situations. We start with a conversation about the client’s needs so we can train the bot to recognize distinctive details, such as information about regional insurance options.

After the chatbot is up and running, we continue to monitor its conversations with users, making adjustments as necessary to ensure it’s as accurate and reliable as possible. It’s the combination of machine learning and human training that makes for a great AI experience.

Engagement and Efficiency

We’re living in a connected world, and patients expect to be able to have their questions answered immediately, day or night. AI-driven chat can handle a good chunk of their queries and concerns, allowing you to use your human resources more efficiently. When users need a human touch, the bot can seamlessly transfer the chat to a live operator or give the user the right phone number to call.

The goal of AI is to make life easier. The proof is on the page: Pages with AI chatbots boast up to three times greater engagement, while bounce rates drop upward of 70 percent. Clearly, users have a need and a desire to connect. Artificial intelligence can fill that need.