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  • Writer's picturePankaj Kumar

AI Conversations in Healthcare




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Article Excerpt

Effective communication, through good conversations, can lead to greater patient satisfaction and better health outcomes. However, interactions are directly affected by staff shortage, financial and emotional pressures faced by healthcare workforce as well as language barriers experienced by non-English speaking patients. Here we explore how innovative AI solutions such as Conversational AI in healthcare can be used by patients in your facility, at various stages of their journey, before, during and after their healthcare appointments, to enhance their interactions and overall experience.

A patient's journey in healthcare

Conversations are an integral part of a patient's healthcare journey, from pre-visit procedures, interactions during consultations and finally adhering to treatment plans and follow-ups after being discharged. For maximum satisfaction and safe health outcomes, it is important that patients are able to communicate with their healthcare provider effectively while completing the preliminary procedures, discussing their medical concerns, understanding the diagnosis and following the treatment options advised. After the appointment, addressing billing matters and ensuring continuity of care instructions from their practitioners are as important.


In this article, we will explore how AI can help enhance a patient's experience, especially with regards to communication and assist them as they progress through the various stages of their journey. With the implementation of AI, your healthcare facility can ensure that patients receive adequate support, physically, professionally, emotionally, and mentally, before, during and after their visit.


AI in healthcare and AI hospitals

According to data from 2018 to 2023, the healthcare market witnessed a significant growth rate of 41.2% in the field of AI. According to the latest stats, today, around one-third of medical professionals utilize computer systems for diagnosis assistance, highlighting the increasing integration of AI in healthcare. Furthermore, 19% of healthcare organizations have already implemented AI technology, while an additional 18% are in the process of adopting it. With as many as 83% of companies claiming that the use of AI in their business strategies is a top priority and about 4 billion voice assistants already in use worldwide, conversational AI is set to revolutionize most industries, including healthcare, along with the conversational experience for both patients and providers. From virtual assistants, to healthcare medical AI chatbots or doctor bots, Artificial Intelligence is set to infiltrate most businesses, as Conversational AI and other solutions.


Conversational AI refers to solutions which use several AI techniques like Machine Learning(ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to automate conversations with users. Conversational AI is revolutionary in that it continuously learns and improves based on its own usage, unlike virtual assistants which are more basic, automated and answer queries based on pre-defined rules, without machine learning.


While nearly a third of US Healthcare providers expressing that an AI use case for clinical decision support tools was a top priority, some hospitals in Japan are reshaping the patient experience in healthcare settings, through AI hospitals . Using digitalization, these AI hospitals aim to reduce the hospital staff's workload, ease the patient's healthcare journey and increase the practice of remote care, while safeguarding privacy and maximizing health outcomes.


From the use of AI-powered wheelchairs which drive patients to the required department within the hospital, to the pre-visit questionnaire conducted on an iPad or the diagnostic AI tool which assesses what disease the patient may be suffering from, the technological innovations save time and increase efficiency within the hospital, for both patients and their practitioners. In addition to the innovative ways hospitals are evolving, with more advancements on the way in the AI field within healthcare, we can expect to see new ways in which hospitals bring novelty to patient-centric care.


Nevertheless, one important aspect and reality of a patient's journey currently, which is predominant at every stage, is effective and seamless communication. Encouragingly, there are existing AI solutions which can be implemented to enhance such conversations.


AI solutions currently used in US healthcare

Conversational AI offers a wide range of applications for patients, including automated appointment reminders and scheduling, answering frequently asked questions about symptoms, treatments, medications, and collecting patient health history and insurance details. AI can also enable voice-driven interactions during tele-health consultations, making it easier for patients to communicate with healthcare providers remotely. After the healthcare appointment, AI solutions can also provide the capability to send proactive reminders to patients for essential preventative care, allowing them convenient access to their medical records and test results, and mental health support, to actively participate in their healthcare journey.


Optimizing conversations through AI

Imagine having effortless and meaningful interactions, free from any misunderstanding. Such conversations regardless of the parties involved, language differences, emotional state and external distractions, could help your facility thrive and increase trust.


In healthcare settings, although the roles are interchangeable, patients typically take the role of a listener, during conversations relating to their diagnosis, treatment care plan or post-visit instructions. Approximately 68 million people in the United States speak a language other than English at home, and of those, 8.2% speak English less than very well and therefore would meet HHS’s definition of limited English proficiency (LEP), as they do not speak English as their preferred language and have a limited ability to read, write, speak, or understand English.


During crucial healthcare interactions, LEP patients may encounter language barriers which sometimes inevitably lead to misunderstandings, misdiagnoses, and inadequate treatment. These language and cultural barriers can contribute to health disparities experienced by immigrants and non-English-speaking communities. Additionally, LEP patients may face many difficulties including the understanding of healthcare instructions, filling out forms, and expressing their healthcare concerns. Barriers to active listening and perception of the information being conveyed, can have an influence on the patient’s satisfaction and wellbeing.


Through AI-powered solutions, conversations can be optimized, as they aid to make communication smoother and more inclusive, for LEP patients, healthcare staff and the rest of the population.


Conversations facilitated by technologies such as AI-powered language translation tools could break down language barriers. By allowing patients to express themselves and understand their health condition and any plan of action in the language of their choice, can help providers establish a relationship of trust with their non-English speaking patients, without them feeling discriminated against, irrespective of the language, cultural and ethnic barriers. Understanding the patient’s perspective, which is key to communication, can be enhanced by using layman terms in the preferred language, through AI, to explain medical terms and procedures, giving the patients an exceptional experience.


So far, interpreters and translators have been used to improve care for patients with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) in healthcare and as the healthcare industry continues to expand, Conversational AI, is a novel solution to address language accessibility challenges experienced by underserved populations or patients with LEP. Appropriately designed Conversational AI, approved by regulators, can enable instant translation of medical conversations into different languages. Ideally, to help LEP patients and English-speaking practitioners communicate effortlessly and without third party involvement.


How AI can optimize pre-visit preparation 

Although AI has limitations, and it may not be able to answer specific medical queries, unanswered questions can be forwarded directly to the relevant practitioner. Use of such a tool, would be time-saving. At the time of medical appointment, the practitioner at the bedside would then be aware of the unanswered questions, which would save time, enable smooth flow of the conversation, make the consultation more meaningful and beneficial to patients, while also making them feel valued.


AI can also be used for the completion of pre-visit questionnaires. Currently, practitioners and nurses explain the process, questions and questionnaire to patients in technical language, which may be ambiguous to patients from various backgrounds.


Innovative ways to optimize patient appointments through AI

Current solutions

Potential AI-powered solutions

Benefits of implementation

Pre-appointment questionnaires and administrative tasks are completed by nursing staff.

Patients access and fill the questionnaires via Conversational AI. Nurses could save time and review the answers given by patients, rather than assisting them in filling the entire form.

Time pressure and patients' lack of preparedness to answer questions prior to the consultation, sometimes give rise to anxiety and prevent conversations from flowing naturally.

AI tools can send reminders to patients prior to their appointment. In some cases, AI could advise patients about what would be expected from them at the healthcare facility.

Smoother conversations as patients are more prepared and workforce staff have more time.

High waiting times prior to the appointment due to the required paperwork.

Tech enablement through AI solutions would increase time efficiency and reduce waiting times, as the burden placed on staff due to administrative tasks would be eased.

Prompt service increase patient satisfaction and increase the likelihood of them using a facility again.


AI could increase overall efficiency for your staff and patients as:

  • It would allow patient to fill the pre-visit questionnaire, in their own time, prior to their appointment.

  • In cases where longer responses are required, using AI to fill out the questionnaire would allow more time for patients to answer questions and ensure accuracy, as nurses could quickly confirm answered questions at the beginning of appointments.

  • Additionally, reminders to fill the pre-visit form prior to their appointment, sent by AI, would help speed up the appointment process and decrease waiting times at your healthcare facility.


How AI can assist patients during healthcare visits

Emotional management

In some cases, prior to important conversations during an appointment, it's beneficial to provide emotional support and manage patients emotionally and mentally. Conversational AI such as Relic AI can assist in managing patients' emotional and mental well-being by creating a supportive environment, irrespective staffing levels, enabling more effective communication during your patient's healthcare visit.


Practicality

Managing other aspects of their health can also ease the burden off patients, which would then help maximise their time interacting with their doctor and nurses. Medication engagement AI solution, Medisafe for example can help put patients at ease and feel in control of their health management, subsequently, leading to more naturally flowing conversations.


Management of information overload

Each patient has their own unique information preferences and thresholds. AI-powered Virtual User Interfaces (VUI) can offer flexible information delivery methods, allowing your patients to opt for the level of detail and medical depth, they desire. The doctor-to-patient translator Vital which is a platform available to the public helps a patient translate their records into layman terms. Ideally though, a solution allowing patients to enquire about and understand details related to their personal health records using an interface, at their own pace, would increase trust and add value to the patient experience. The flexibility to access information based on patient's readiness, preference or curiosity, could bring a revolutionary change to patient-centric care.


How AI can provide support between healthcare appointments

Depending on a patient's healthcare condition and the stage of treatment and diagnosis, they might require additional support with appointment reminders, mental counselling, more information about referrals. In some cases, they may benefit from joining a community of like-minded individuals who may be facing similar healthcare issues. AI tools such as Woebot can manage patients' emotional and mental health during their daily lives, which would equip them with the right mindset for their visits. On the other hand, AI solutions which provide appointment reminders to patients in innovative ways, can provide relief as they learn to manage their healthcare journey with ease, thereby allowing them to express themselves with less anxiety during conversations. Healthfully, which is an innovative AI health tech product focusing on patient engagement, management and wellness, could be an asset for facilities who would like to create a unique experience for patients between their healthcare appointments and throughout their journey.


The role of AI: Empowering humans

Essentially, enhancing communication through AI can increase fulfilment and satisfaction during healthcare setting interactions. Although it's quite unlikely that AI technologies will replace doctors and nurses, they can be leveraged to maximise efficiency of tasks which can only be performed by humans, such as compassionate bedside care. AI technology in conversation management can help overcome barriers and increase patient-centered communication in a healthcare setting, maximizing patient satisfaction and the relationship of trust with their provider. There are concerns around the limitations of AI in healthcare, especially regarding patient data privacy and the risk of data breaches. However, these can be minimized by focusing on providing high quality solutions, investing resources on increasing clients' privacy and ensuring regulatory compliance, approval and continuous improvement and updates of the company's services.


The future of the healthcare experience

From AI hospitals to the simple implementation of various AI solutions within EHR, sophisticated technological advancements leveraging machine learning and natural language processing, are set to enhance the healthcare experience, offer increasing benefits and provide smoother solutions to patients, their families and healthcare staff. Looking ahead, AI is expected to redefine the health sector at incredible speed. The future looks bright for developing AI that can assist patients, converse in any language, provide care, and ultimately help the vulnerable maintain health, independence and stepping into a patient-centric healthcare system.  


How Relic AI can help

Relic Care provides real-time translation services and para-clinical AI-powered support, which can bridge the gap and help patients connect at a deeper level, fostering mutual understanding and building strong connections with the healthcare team.


Translation services

With the ability to translate the input (by a patient) and provide an output in a different language (e.g. English), Relic AI is set to change the interaction of LEP patients with their health care providers. Our instant translation solution would allow patients and healthcare staff who don't share a common language to communicate easily and effectively, in a language of their choice, enabling better understanding and engagement irrespective of linguistic backgrounds. Relic Care aspires to reduce these barriers in conversations through its conversational AI innovation and workforce support through Artificial Intelligence.


Para-clinical support in 50+ languages

Relic Care can assist in managing patients' emotional and mental well-being, utilizing AI technology to provide para-clinical support through AIdiologists, with 24/7 availability. Through Relic AI, for instance, emotional support can be provided to patients through AI-powered emotional counsellor, in real time, to help your patients stabilize emotionally during their hospital stay, while also taking into consideration their care history and diagnosis.

Available 24/7, Relic AIdiologist, can answer patients' non-medical queries accordingly, while taking into account their clinical history and the relevance required at any given time.


Clarity

Use of clear verbal language, avoiding jargon and providing accurate information, relevant to your patient, in the language they speak, would improve communication outcomes.  Relic Care's multilingual Conversational AI available in 50+ languages, can increase patient accessibility and understanding of their records, saving time, reducing the doctor's need for case-history taking and improving the patient- practitioner rapport and trust, as language barriers are eliminated.


Safe & regulatory compliance ready

Patient data safety and privacy are part of our priorities. Relic AI is compliant with HIPAA and handles Personal Health Information (PHI) in HIPAA compliant manner. Patient's PHI is never shared with any external systems. Audit and compliance ready reports are available within Relic AI.


Through good communication, human companionship, ease of access and understanding of health-record, post-appointment care and support, medication management tools and 24/7 para-clinical care availability, AI tools have the ability to improve quality of life and the overall care experience.



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