My first experience with chatbots was in the 90’s with Eliza but chatbots have come a very long way since then. Everyone has experienced using Siri or Cortana or Amazon Alexa, or Echo. The experience is familiar now, and useful, as the increasing use of these takes hold across many areas of our lives.
We also already have chatbot medical assistants such as your.md (a personalised Health Guide chatbot, that gives relevant and trusted health information to help you decide the best next steps to get better and keep healthy) and SafedrugBot (a chatbot messaging service that offers assistant-like support via the Telegram messaging app to the health professionals, doctors who need appropriate information about the use of drugs during breastfeeding). Many of the current chatbots in healthcare are aimed at patients or consumers to reduce time spent with physicians or nurses.
For those who are not familiar with how a chatbot works, it functions using AI driven by the combined analysis of natural language processing, knowledge data base, deep learning to improve interactions and responses, and sentiment analysis to detect emotions or frustration and respond appropriately. Essentially they are a way for an AI powered auditory or textual conversation that simulates a human conversation.
There are so many benefits to the use of chatbots that they are expected to grow much more in uses and popularity because they offer scalability (because they are using AI), personalization at scale (each person has different questions and conversations that are answered personally), engagement (users initiate the conversation to ask a question or fulfil a need), and resource optimization (chatbots replicate humans and reduce the reliance on real humans to free up their time for more complex interactions).
For chatbots in healthcare we must be aware of the fact we are in a highly regulated industry and must ensure that our chatbots comply. They must be HIPAA compliant to ensure the patients personal information is received and stored in the most secure ways possible. All utilization would have to be anonymised including the specific conversations that took place. Of course google and other tech companies do not always comply with this level of privacy in theirs but they are not in the same industry and are subject to different rules. However, working in pharma we have a higher set of standards to live up to. The chatbots also have to ensure fair balance so if they are discussing a drug they would need to include fair balance about risks etc. And on top of that chatbots would also have to be trained/programmed to handle adverse event reporting.
Chatbots are already changing customer engagement in many industries. So how can pharma use the power of chatbots?
A myriad of options come to mind. One example is to enhance the beyond-the-pill experience. One beyond-the-pill project we did was wrapping a drug in valuable services for patients and physicians to increase uptake of the drug. The patient services included an insurance help hotline run by chatbots who could help the patients simplify the complex insurance processes and verification support, as well as helping patients sign up for PAP programs more easily assisted by a chatbot. Other obvious uses of chatbots are customer support, medication and refill reminder services and a whole lot more such as answering general health questions (your.md), presenting interactive labeling information, or helping to connect a patient to a healthcare professional or pharmacy. Health bot technology can also act as a virtual nurse that checks when medication was taken, record the latest biometric readings, ask about symptoms and more.
The key is to start with strategic or tactical challenges and keep chatbots in mind when designing solutions to solve these challenges as they are an effective way to have a customer service support staff delivering personalization and support at scale where needed.
If you would like to know more about chatbots and how Eularis can assist companies in creating their own chatbots, please contact us at Eularis (http://www.eularis.com ) to discuss.