As technology continues to venture its way into the health sector, there seems to be less person-to-person contact in guiding patients back to health. With the increase of technology, patients can now receive health notifications at the click of their fingertip. CareThrough, a healthcare service provider, is joining the technology realm by implementing LifeLink’s AI chatbot for their patients.

“We realized that digital conversations are the future of patient engagement and that a common denominator between elderly and young millennial patients is that they both utilize text in their daily lives,” said Kyle Cooksey, President of CareThrough.

The LifeLink chatbot platform is an automated conversation that helps patients save time and gain better digital communication with their care team. The chatbot has the ability to send appointment reminders, updates when lab tests are available, directions to a healthcare facility, emergency room wait times and addresses concerns that need immediate attention. Additionally, the LifeLink message platform leads to reduced ‘left without being seen’ (LWBS) departures, preserves referral network integrity, and improves medication adherence by integrating a personalized care plan.  

Despite its numerous advantages, designing this chatbot had its hurdles.

“The main challenges were developing a virtual assistant that was conversational, efficient, affordable, and more than a basic text messaging alert tool, like something you may receive from an airline with flight information,” said Cooksey. “There are multiple workflow scenarios that come into play, and we designed in enough flexibility to rapidly configure and deliver conversational chatbots without the need for massive, costly IT projects.”

Another element they had to consider was their clientele. There are some elderly patients who may find it harder to adapt to the growing technology trend. With this in mind, the chatbots needed to be user-friendly and easily accessible.

“The key to our user-friendly technology are the chatbots’ natural and intuitive communication, allowing elderly patients to receive personalized appointment reminders and follow-up texts to address areas of concern,” said Cooksey. “Our technology also allows elderly patients to alert their provider to care episodes ranging from shortness of breath to lack of appetite.”

Thus far, they have seen promising results, and they have even offered a demo for patients to see how it works. The chatbots have also been useful for care companions and family members who can receive a digital update on their loved ones or patient.

“Elderly patients are frequently accompanied by companions who also need or want to receive care updates,” said Cooksey. “The ability to easily extend the reach of the bots to caregivers, friends and family members is a core part of the solution and very important for the elderly patient population.”

Cooksey believes that chatbots could be a vital element for online healthcare’s future. According to Juniper Research, the overall success rate of chatbots' personalized feedback will increase from 12 percent today to 75 percent in 2022.

Kyle Cooksey
President of CareThrough

But “more importantly, conversational AI will continue to proactively reduce the frequency of acute episodes, and aid in the delivery of better quality care,” said Cooksey. “For example, if a patient is required to fast 8 hours before a procedure, a text message is sent the day prior to ensure that the patient adheres to the requirements.”

By receiving a reminder that the patient can respond to, the patient has the opportunity to ask questions and eliminate any confusion going into the procedure. This integration of online and mobile based healthcare will continue to become more prevalent and accurate as time progresses. As of now, the success rate of this technology performing the correct actions and providing patients with valuable information has been considerably high.

“Health systems leverage a human navigator along with chatbot technology to deliver patient-centric care. With a navigator managing the system, updating the conversations, and analyzing patient responses, there is a lower margin of error,” said Cooksey. “Many of the common missed opportunities to deliver precision medicine outside of the care setting are addressed with chatbot technology.”

Cooksey hopes this technology has the potential to transform the communication process across care touch-points inside the ER and beyond.

“The potential to transform the communication process across hundreds of major ERs around the country will be a big step towards bringing the healthcare industry a step closer to being more customer centric,” said Cooksey. “This information patients can receive is not only valuable, in many instances it is lifesaving.”