I’ve been fascinated by chatbots since they started to become popular a year or so ago. I checked out the Wikipedia page for a definition of chatbots and they offered this definition:
a chat robot is a type of conversational agent, a computer program designed to simulate an intelligent conversation with one or more human users via auditory or textual methods.
When looking at that page, I was reminded that chatbots existed back in my old IRC (internet relay chat…any one else remember spending time on IRC?) days as well. The problem with chatbots in the IRC days is that they were extremely basic. I guess that’s why I didn’t naturally remember that IRC had chatbots. The chatbots and AI behind the chatbots have progressed so much that they barely resemble each other.
We’re even starting to see chatbots evolve so that they can be used in healthcare. One example of this is a company called SimplifiMed. What I liked about SimplifiMed is that they have an open platform that can be used to implement a chatbot based on any protocol a hospital, health system, payer, etc would like to deploy. They’re making chatbots accessible to anyone that wants to implement one.
While I think chatbots are really interesting and can have an impact for good on healthcare, it’s going to take some work to develop the right protocols to make them effective. A big part of that is going to know how to train the chatbot to communicate with non-adherent patients in an effective way. That’s where the secret sauce really lies. Certainly, a chatbot takes communication and automation to a new level. However, training it to work effectively is going to be where the real value will be created.
I’m excited to see the next evolution of communication and automation come to healthcare. Done correctly, chatbots can save healthcare a lot of money and remove menial tasks that don’t need to be done by a human. They can also escalate tasks to the right person where human intervention is necessary.