It’s momentous that the UK National Health Service (NHS) has turned 75 this year. It’s a fantastic milestone and something we’re fiercely proud of in the UK, but it comes at a time where patient waiting lists have reached over 7 million, and inefficiencies have caused critical staff shortages.
The NHS Long Term Plan was published in 2019 and set out ambitions for improvement over the following decade, which includes the importance of technology in the future of the NHS; setting out the critical priorities that will support digital transformation and provide a step change in the way the NHS cares for citizens. The website states, ‘people, data and technology are crucial to the ongoing evolution of our NHS.’
As such, digital transformation is more crucial than ever and it’s an important time to improve and leverage tools for greater efficiency, including Conversational AI (CAI) which can be used for enhanced employee and patient experiences.
AI is no longer in the waiting room
The emergence of AI has become particularly prominent of late, as ChatGPT takes the world by storm, with people using it to help them with everyday tasks such as writing and research tasks, answering questions and helping with jobs such as coding. Within the NHS, AI is already being used to benefit the NHS by analysing X-ray images such as mammograms to support radiologists to make assessments, as well as helping clinicians read brain scans more quickly, shortening the time it takes for patients to be treated and giving them a better quality of care.
But there are risks with OpenAI for organisations to consider too, such as privacy, security and bias, which the healthcare industry needs to carefully address when determining how and where to best use AI to positively impact patient care.
In particular, CAI provides convenient, timely, and personalised service experiences for employees and patients through intelligent virtual assistants. This type of AI simulates human conversation through natural language processing via large volumes of data. Then, machine learning and natural language processing combine to use the data to imitate human interactions.
Once implemented by a healthcare organisation, CAI will understand medical terminology, provide accurate information on a range of diseases and store patient information securely, giving doctors and patients advice on treatment in conversational format in over 100 languages.
For example, ask an intelligent virtual assistant powered by CAI a question on a health condition or patient family history and it will be able to give a thorough answer through the historic data integrated into it. CAI takes a typical chatbot one step further to create more meaningful and personalised interactions.
Improving patient outcomes
CAI can revolutionise healthcare via a range of applications. Through automated conversations with patients, healthcare providers, health insurance payers, and life science companies, healthcare professionals can streamline work and create greater convenience for patients. In terms of everyday tasks, an intelligent virtual assistant delivers human-like conversational experiences such as automated patient enrolment, prescription information and patient reminders.
This allows healthcare professionals to focus on providing high-quality care rather than addressing routine tasks, making the NHS a much more efficient service, that becomes a more enjoyable place to work, and a place where patients are happy with the service provided. This is more important than ever, with it being reported last year that millions of UK patients are forced to go down the private healthcare route, amid the record NHS waiting lists.
CAI can also improve patient engagement, providing personalised, convenient interactions. Through access to real-time information, patients can access educational resources, information on certain health conditions and receive guidance on self-care. This could help to alleviate some of the pressures faced by healthcare professionals, such as seeing patients at a GP surgery, where health concerns and questions around typical illnesses such as colds and hayfever could be eliminated.
There are many ways that CAI can help patients further, including assisting in managing conditions, reminders on medications and advice on lifestyle changes and monitoring overall health, which all leads to better patient outcomes.
AI will see you now
This new type of experience powered by CAI is convenient and secure, offering patients more control over their health and wellness by delivering test results and recommendations of next steps when they want it. In some cases, this could eliminate the need of going to a doctor to find out test results. And it can put patients’ anxieties at ease, knowing they can ask a virtual assistant for answers in the privacy of their own home and at their own convenience.
CAI adoption will take time and trust needs to continue to be built in AI, but we’re reaching a critical point in the UK where transforming digitally is a must if patient care and employee satisfaction is to be improved. The benefits of using intelligent virtual assistants powered by CAI in our healthcare system are both plentiful and exciting – it can help to save money, drive operational efficiencies and improve experiences and access to care.
Serkan Ibrahim, Vice President, Europe, Kore.ai