Intelligent Chatbots in Health

Naveen Ashish, PhD                                                                               

Chatbots or Conversational Intelligent Agents, such as Siri, Alexa, Cortana, has gained a significant presence in the modern society. In addition to their impacts on personal life, intelligent agents/devices, as well as conversational chat agents for applications such as customer support and travel reservations, have transformed the way modern businesses are being conducted. By definition, “a chatbot (also known as a talkbot, chatterbot, Bot, chatterbox, Artificial Conversational Entity) is a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods.”

Outside of the personal and business setting, a potential area for positive implementations of Chatbots is healthcare! Chatbots can be instrumental in enabling and/or optimizing multiple key health care and medical research applications; which have been proven to be beneficial for patients, clinicians, caregivers, insurers, responders and researchers.

One example of the first implementation of operative bots in the healthcare research context took place half a century ago. ELIZA, one of the first operative bots, was created to emulate a Rogerian psychologist, who asks patients questions by rearranging patients’ response.

So in what ways/ areas can Chatbots be utilized to make important contribution to healthcare? There are multiple key areas that we highlight.

Information and Support

PERSONALIZATION is defined as the key aspect in the upcoming evolution of patient care and medical treatment advancement.

Recent surveys suggest that nowadays, people are relying on comprehensive internet search platform like Google for health information/advice. The scope of information could range from common colds to severe chronic diseases. However, without sufficient medical training/background, one of the challenges that users face is how to effectively identify information that provides the most potent (efficient) means for understanding and addressing the conditions. In this scenario, a Chatbot kind interface, equipped with medical diagnosis procedures and treatment plans algorithms, can act as an intermediary to bridge the gap in knowledge between the users and the search engine. Specifically, a Chatbot interface can provide a) NL Interface, b) Filter and focus search, c) Personalized and organized search results and interactions. Chatbots can also provide assistance with tasks such as medication reminders, prescription refills, advice on medications and administrative reminders, such as scheduling appointments.

Chatbots for Doctors and Medical Staff

Optimization of service, costs, and the overall efficiency of health care delivery and management, especially in the United States, is another area that can benefit from the implementation of Chatbots. A major contributing factor for the current inefficiency and high costs is the lack of engagement and following-up care with patients. A scalable and cost effective Chatbots/ Virtual Assistant can be deployed to follow up and engage with patients after they left the clinic or hospital facility. Recent studies have found that a Chatbot or Virtual Assistant that was used for following-up care with patients can result in a better patient care experience outside of the clinic/hospital setting and prevent future readmissions. Additionally, doctors/healthcare providers can review the information that is collected by Chatbot from its interactions with patients, including medication intake, overall adherence, treatment visits, tests, ER visits, etc. to intervene with patients’ treatments if necessary.

Intervention

Depend on the severity and requirements of the health conditions, intervention may be required for patients’ overall health improvement and prevention of future readmission. Some apps-based examples of effective intervention mediums that have yield successful results in recent years are in areas, such as smoking reduction, alcohol or substance usage, anger management, sedentary behavior, and diet management. While patients can now be proactive in achieving their health goal through continuous interactions with guidelines, interactive, menu-driven interface via an app on their smart devices, the success of these apps provides an evidence suggesting that there are significant demands and opportunities for Chatbots/ Virtual Assistant to create a more personalized experience for the users of these interventions.

TeraCrunch Chatbot Development

TeraCrunch has significant core technology as well as solution development expertise in the Chatbot space. Specifically:

  • Automated Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Semantic Text Understanding are at the core of any Chatbot, which is powered by TeraCrunch’s patent pending Socratez text understanding engine.
  • TeraCrunch has developed and deployed custom Chatbots in other domains including home automation and travel assistance.
  • TeraCrunch data scientists have solution development expertise and knowledge of the health and biomedical domain, particularly in cancer.