Benefits of Building Medical Chatbots For Your Healthcare Business

The healthcare industry is at a crucial juncture since patients, the key stakeholders in this industry, are increasingly demanding a better service. Given the shortage of trained manpower, delivering a better outcome is proving hard, and manual processes in this sector compound the challenges.

Healthcare industry leaders are turning to a wide range of technology solutions, e.g., many of them are adopting medical chatbots. If you are a senior leader in a healthcare organization, you are likely wondering about the benefits of building medical chatbots for your healthcare business. This is exactly what I explain here.

Contents

Healthcare: A large market!
Challenges galore in the healthcare sector
AI in healthcare: A growing field!
What is medical chatbot?
Examples of medical chatbots
What benefits do medical chatbots offer?
Developing a medical chatbot
Planning to build a medical chatbot for your healthcare business?

Healthcare: A large market!

You can appreciate the massive size of the healthcare market from the below statistics:

The industry is transitioning to a value-based model as a result of the growing demand for such a model from the patients. Experts believe that by the end of 2019, 15% of the global healthcare spending will be on value/outcome-based product/services. You can read about this in “Top 8 healthcare predictions for 2019”.

Challenges galore in the healthcare sector

The global healthcare industry is plagued by challenges, e.g.:

  • This sector faces a shortage of skilled manpower.
  • Regulations and tax reforms concerning the healthcare industry are still work-in-progress, which results in a state of flux.
  • Despite high spending, the industry lacks a “value line” of products and services, and you can read more about this in “Here are 6 major issues facing healthcare in 2019, according to PwC”.
  • As healthcare regulations change, the industry is finding it hard to comply with them.
  • Pharmacy costs are rising.
  • The healthcare industry generates a massive amount of data, however, the industry lacks the capabilities to gain insights from it. You can read about this in “Top 4 challenges healthcare executives face in 2019”.
  • Cybercriminals are regularly trying to gain access to the sensitive Protected Health Information (PHI), therefore, the healthcare industry faces a high cybersecurity risk.
  • The industry lacks an effective payment model.
  • Patient experience needs improvement.
  • Inefficient processes like invoicing and payment processing contribute to the overall sub-optimal performance of the healthcare sector. You can read more about this in “5 major challenges facing the healthcare industry in 2019”.

AI in healthcare: A growing field!

Before I delve deeper into medical chatbots, let‘s take a few moments to understand how Artificial Intelligence (AI), the technology underpinning these chatbots, is growing in the healthcare sector. AI in healthcare has various applications, e.g., medical imaging and diagnosis, drug discovery, wearables, therapy planning, etc., and chatbots are a key application.

Download Our Project Specification Template

The growth potential of AI in healthcare becomes clear from the following statistics:

IBM, Microsoft, Apple, SAP, Intel, Google, GE Healthcare, Medtronic, and NVIDIA are some of the prominent players in the healthcare AI space.

What is medical chatbot?

A medical chatbot, or health chatbot as it‘s often called, is an AI-powered service for people to interact with. A medical chatbot uses a messenger feature to facilitate interaction between users and the bot. You can read more about these chatbots in “6 leading health chatbots to watch in 2018 & beyond”.

There are various applications for medical chatbots, e.g., they could provide health-related information to their users. These chatbots can‘t formally diagnose the ailment, however, they can provide useful information if you provide your symptoms. Medical chatbots can also set up appointments with doctors and send reminders to patients.

Examples of medical chatbots

Following are a few examples of medical chatbots:

1. SafedrugBot

SafedrugBot is an AI-powered virtual assistant to help doctors perform their duties. It particularly focuses on breastfeeding mothers, and this chatbot can provide valuable information and advice related to breastfeeding. It‘s a chatbot messaging service that works with Telegram, the popular messaging app.

SafedrugBot offers doctors and breastfeeding mothers with useful information about the effects of generic medicines and prescription drugs during breastfeeding. Apart from information on drugs, SafedrugBot offers information about the ingredients of these drugs, moreover, it can suggest alternative drugs.

2. Babylon Health

Babylon Health was founded in 2013, and it‘s a British subscription, online medical consultation, and health services company. The app is available on the web, moreover, there are Android and iOS apps.

Babylon Health is powered by AI, and it offers consultation based on the personal medical history of a patient and common medical knowledge. It uses a database containing information about diseases, moreover, the app also uses speech recognition.

Beyond this, Babylon Health also enables a live video consultation with a real doctor. The doctor could prescribe medicines, or he/she could refer the patient to a specialist.

3. Florence

Florence is a popular medical chatbot that works with messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Skype, and Kik. It can work as a virtual nurse, and offers the following services:

  • Reminding patients about taking their medicines on time;
  • Finding the nearest pharmacy or doctor‘s office;
  • Tracking patients‘ health parameters like bodyweight;
  • Tracking menstrual cycle, mood, etc.

It‘s easy to set up reminders for medicines since patients only need to enter the name of the medicines, the frequency, and at what time they need to take the medicine.

You can find more examples of medical chatbots in “The top 12 health chatbots”.

What benefits do medical chatbots offer?

Medical chatbots can offer plenty of benefits to various stakeholders in the healthcare space, e.g.:

Read How We Helped a Marketing Company to Build a Back-Office Custom Ads Dashboard

  • Nowadays, patients want more information about their medical conditions and treatments, e.g., they might need information about generic and prescription drugs. Medical chatbots have emerged as useful tools to provide additional information to patients.
  • Healthcare industry has a significant shortfall of qualified professionals, therefore, it takes time for patients to receive one-on-one consultations. Medical chatbots can provide initial assistance over one-on-one conversations.
  • Health chatbots enhance the brand identity of the healthcare organizations that deploy them since AI-powered chatbots can attend to queries from patients round-the-clock.
  • As a healthcare organization gathers more data, it can train the AI chatbot better using Machine Learning (ML). This enables the chatbot to provide more relevant information to the patients.
  • More people now use smartphones. Medical chatbots help healthcare organizations reach their patients where they spend more time, i.e., on their smartphones! Read more about this in “Medical chatbot — the 4 greatest challenges medical institutes are facing, solved with chatbots”.
  • Medical chatbots can gather feedback from patients about the websites of healthcare organizations, and this helps organizations to improve their websites.
  • Health chatbots can remind patients about their medicines, moreover, these chatbots can monitor their health parameters.
  • Medical chatbots can set up appointments with doctors, furthermore, they can find the nearest pharmacy or doctor‘s office.

Developing a medical chatbot

You need to take the following steps to create a medical chatbot for your healthcare business:

1. Formulate the project scope

You need to onboard a project manager (PM), an IT architect, and business analysts first, subsequently, you need to define the project scope. I recommend that you build a medical chatbot application on the web, Android and iOS. You need to decide on the features to offer, e.g., providing information to patients, offering initial assistance, setting up appointments, etc.

2. Build a software development team

I recommend that you follow the Agile methodology for this project since you might frequently add new features to the web and mobile apps. Scrum is a proven technique to manage Agile projects, therefore, I suggest that you build a scrum team where the PM works as the scrum master.

The PM should form small, cross-functional scrum teams, and you can read about them in “How to build a scrum development team?”. The team needs the following additional roles:

  • UI designers;
  • AI developers;
  • Web developers with Node.js skills;
  • Android developers;
  • iOS developers;
  • Testers;
  • DevOps engineers.

If you don‘t have the required people in your organization, then I recommend that you hire a field expert development team. I have explained the benefit of this in “Freelance app development team vs. field expert software development teams”.

3. Provision the required IT infrastructure

If you aren‘t using your on-premises IT infrastructure for deploying the proposed medical chatbot app, then you should sign-up with a reputed managed cloud services provider. I recommend the following:

  • Develop the web app using AWS Elastic Beanstalk, i.e., the Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering from AWS. It manages cloud infrastructure, networking, operating system, middleware, and runtime environment, therefore, you can focus on development. It‘s easy to scale your app this PaaS, moreover, you can easily integrate 3rd party APIs, databases, and DevOps services.
  • Sign-up with AWS Amplify, i.e., the Mobile-Backend-as-a-Service (MBaaS) offering from AWS, so that you don‘t need to develop and manage the mobile backend. It‘s easy to implement features like user management, application security, etc. with Amplify, furthermore, you can easily integrate 3rd party APIs.

4. Sign-up for the Microsoft Healthcare Bot API

Microsoft Healthcare Bot offers robust APIs for developers to create their medical chatbots, and you can find it in the Azure marketplace. Read more about this in “Microsoft Healthcare Bot brings conversational AI to healthcare”.

This AI-powered bot and the associated API enable you to implement the core medical chatbot features, moreover, it complies with the stringent healthcare industry regulations like HIPAA. Machine learning algorithms have trained the bot on medical terminologies, symptoms, medications, etc., furthermore, it incorporates conversational AI.

You can integrate the chatbot with your app using its REST API, and it supports key healthcare data standards like HL7. The platform offers detailed documentation, and you can access it here. Check out its pricing plans here.

The mobile app should offer the push notifications feature, therefore you need a bulk-SMS solution. I recommend that you use the Programmable SMS solution from Twilio. You can check out its documentation here.

5. Get a test automation aid

You need a test automation aid to test your web app against different browsers, moreover, you need to test the mobile apps against different devices. Commonly available test automation frameworks don‘t quite facilitate that, therefore, I recommend that you use pCloudy. This solution offers a wide range of browsers and mobile devices on the cloud, and you can find its documentation here.

6. UI design

The web and mobile apps need user-friendly UIs, therefore, your UI design team should use the following guidelines:

7. Web app development

You can code the web app using Node.js, the popular open-source runtime environment that helps to create scalable and performant web apps. Take the following steps:

8. Android app development

I recommend that you code the Android app using Java since most Android developers know it well. You need to take the following steps:

  • Use Android Studio to code the app.
  • Integrate Twilio and Microsoft Health Bot APIs in your code.
  • Test your app using Espresso and the pCloudy mobile device lab on the cloud.
  • Publish the app to Google Play by following these instructions.

9. iOS app development

Code the iOS app using Objective-C, which is a feature-rich language that many iOS developers know. Take the following steps:

  • Code the app using Xcode, the popular IDE for developing apps for Apple‘s platforms.
  • Integrate the Microsoft Health Bot and Twilio APIs in the app.
  • Use XCTest and the pCloudy mobile device lab on the cloud to test the app.
  • Follow this guide to publish the app to the Apple App Store.

Planning to build a medical chatbot for your healthcare business?

Medical chatbots can add significant value to your healthcare organization, however, developing these AI-powered apps can be hard. You should engage a professional software development company for such projects since a great medical chatbot will enhance your organizations‘ brand identity. Read “How to find the best software development company?” before you engage such a development partner.

Download Our Project Specification Template

Aran Davies

Blockchain Expert | Developer | Writer | Photographer
I love all things blockchain and related to app development. What time I have when I am not busy writing for the DevTeam.Space blog of over 350 articles, I spend sitting around wondering what the future will look like 50 years from now.
Aran Davies