While chatbots have existed for some time supporting online business, they are also applicable in healthcare. The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked widespread use of telemedicine programs. As healthcare professionals continue to rely on these programs, they are beginning to explore the clinical, ethical, and legal aspects of chatbots. Here, Dr. Joel Arun Sursas discusses the potential impact, both positive and negative, of the implementation of chatbots in healthcare.
What can chatbots do in remote healthcare?
Chatbots assist healthcare professionals in a variety of different ways. They can triage patients and guide them to the appropriate area or healthcare provider to get the help they need. They are also considered a more accurate and more reliable alternative to self-help when patients seek medical advice on websites such as WebMD to find out what is causing their symptoms . With these benefits in mind, chatbots hold real promise as a useful piece of technology when applied to the medical industry.
Chatbots can also help patients who may be unsure about whether they should seek care from a healthcare professional or not. An individual can connect with a chatbot regarding their concern rather than visiting a healthcare professional, therefore, saving money. Additionally, medical professionals can focus more of their time on the pressing issues that have already been filtered by chatbot technology.
Positive impacts of using chatbots in remote healthcare
Chatbots can help healthcare professionals by taking care of tasks like data collection. After the chatbot analyzes the patient data, they can suggest the next step, typically an online consultation with a doctor. This technology will also serve to match patients with the correct doctor, as specific symptoms will have already been screened in advance. From there, doctors can come into a consultation more prepared with an idea of what could be affecting the patient.
Chatbots can also offer instant help in the event of an emergency, help with medication management, and provide solutions for medical issues that are less complex. Chatbots can quickly extract valuable information from data sources like doctor’s notes, clinical trial reports, and patient health records. With this information, they can see a patient’s medical condition, medication dosage, strength, frequency, and apply them to their diagnosis and treatment.
Chatbots can also help speed up the process during a doctor visit, consultation, or emergency room services. Chatbots can address user questions via audio, video, or chat, and they can also help them navigate different healthcare services. This makes chatbots a great tool to pave the way to a quick, precise, and consistent diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.
Potential negative impacts of using chatbots in remote healthcare
Perhaps the most significant risk of using chatbots in remote healthcare is user privacy. Some users might be nervous or reluctant about sharing their personal information and symptoms with a bot. Chatbots are also highly susceptible to cybercrime, thus putting patient data at risk . To minimize the risk, providers should make sure that the bots they are using are secure, and they should be supervised for any breaches.
Additionally, some patients may not trust the bots’ advice or may ignore it completely, which could be detrimental to their health. It’s also possible that misunderstandings can arise between the patient and chatbot regarding diagnosis, treatment, or instructions. These confounding factors should get more fluid as chatbot technology improves, and more data becomes available regarding how best to program chatbots to interact with patients.
The misunderstandings between a chatbot and patient can be detrimental to a patient’s health if no human intervention is ever inserted to clear up the confusion and answer any questions that the chatbot cannot answer. One single mistake by a chatbot can lead to a catastrophic error. A great deal of research and thought should be put into all chatbot programming before making them available to the public.
To summarize, chatbots can considerably assist healthcare professionals by collecting basic patient data and analyzing the information about patients’ conditions and symptoms to suggest the next steps. But, they also have their challenges, mostly surrounding privacy concerns. As remote medicine continues to evolve and chatbots become more common, they will support even more tasks, and their security measures will continue to enhance.
About Joel Arun Sursas:
Joel Arun Sursas holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Medicine and Bachelor’s Degree in Surgery from the National University of Singapore and is continuing his education to obtain a Certificate in Safety, Quality, Informatics and Leadership from the Harvard Medical School, and Masters in Applied Health Science Informatics from the Johns Hopkins University (both expected in 2020). His technical skills include SPSS, RevMan, and Python. Dr. Joel Arun Sursas’ most recent engagement is with a medical device start-up company Biorithm where he serves as Head of Clinical Affairs, working to take fetal surveillance out of the hospital and into the home, revolutionizing the obstetric practice globally.
- “Chatbots in Healthcare: Benefits, Risks, and Use Cases: Codete Blog.” Codete Blog – We Share Knowledge for IT Professionals, 18 Aug. 2020, codete.com/blog/chatbots-in-healthcare/.
- “Chatbots in Digital Healthcare: Future Applications, Pros & Cons.” Dr. Hempel Digital Health Network, 8 Jan. 2018, www.dr-hempel-network.com/digital-health-technolgy/chatbots-in-digital-health-care/.