If you think voice-activated AI and chatbots are too futuristic for your healthcare organization, think again. According to mobile and digital technology analysts Juniper Research, chatbots could generate up to $8 billion in annual savings for healthcare organizations by 2022. In the recent report, “The Conversational Business,” author Susan Etlinger, an analyst at Prophet’s research group, Altimeter, provides a detailed guide to how chatbots will reshape digital experiences. She describes how chatbots will be transformative to the customer experience, rather than just fads.

How AI and Chatbots Are Transforming Healthcare

At Prophet, we believe that skillful incorporation of voice-activated AI and chatbot technologies will be key to developing more customer-centric healthcare organizations. In our 2017 study, “Making the Shift: Healthcare’s Transformation to Customer-Centricity we discuss two shifts in particular that have opportunity to incorporate AI:

1. Shifting from population-centric to person-centered

Instead of creating offerings for groups of consumers based on their condition or demographics, healthcare organizations should personalize their offerings based on individual motivations, health status and preferences. Voice-activated AI and chatbots offer an opportunity to invest in targeted data collection while delivering personalized service. Companies that have successfully integrated AI and chatbots in healthcare have taken an inside-out approach, starting with a focused customer need and developing a solution for it. In the following case, concerns about diabetic neuropathy was that need.

Sugarpod by Wellpepper, the winner of this year’s Amazon Alexa Diabetes Challenge, created an interactive diabetes care plan with a smart foot scanner that is voice-powered. The scanner takes photos of the feet that are sent to providers after the scanner flags foot ulcers, indicators of nerve damage or peripheral vascular disease that may be induced by diabetes. In addition, the device makes activities associated with managing Type 2 diabetes more manageable, such as tracking meals or monitoring mental health by personalizing tips for each user and delivering them via voice, mobile or device.

2. Shifting from incremental improvements to pervasive innovation

Healthcare organizations should move toward adopting a common strategy from the tech industry – the minimum viable product, or MVP, mentality. This can be operationalized through a test-and-learn approach, bringing the first version of a prototype to market and then making improvements based on user feedback. Especially for voice-activated AI and chatbots, releasing versions that address simple tasks first and graduating to more complex conversational interfaces will be important. Altimeter’s report notes that as conversations require multiple exchanges, or “turns,” they become more complex to engineer and require more contextual understanding – so starting off simple is a good bet.

How AI is Already Being Used in Healthcare

A good example of this is Northwell Health’s Amazon Alexa skill that searches across the hospital system’s ERs to find those with the shortest wait times. The skill leverages check-in times at Northwell centers every 15 minutes to provide an up-to-date account of wait times and allows users to search by zip code. This skill is confined to one very specific use case that has minimal complexity in conversation, making it a good starting point and one that is easily testable in pilot mode.

As organizations advance in AI capabilities, they can look to build or integrate more complex activities. One such example is a virtual assistant for healthcare released by Nuance Communications, creators of the Dragon Naturally Speaking software among others. This new tool can be embedded in a hospital system’s EHR and it will allow physicians to assess gaps in clinical information more effectively and spend more time with patients. The virtual assistant is voice-enabled and can show a physician’s patient schedule, return lab results and medication lists, and make it easier to send prescriptions to the pharmacy.

Final Thoughts

Though voice-activated AI and chatbots are still in early stages, it’s evident that smart healthcare organizations are preparing for the next wave of development by investing in capabilities themselves or partnering with others to do so.

To learn more about how your organization can increase consumer-centricity by leveraging AI and other growth strategies, read our report “Making the Shift: Healthcare’s Transformation to Customer-Centricity”.