Role of Virtual Assistants in Patient Support

Jan 21, 2019

This blog was first published June 27,2018 on the HCL Technologies blog.

 

Siri, Bixby, Google Assistant, Cortana, and Alexa — not a day goes by without hearing these names. Let’s understand what these virtual assistants are all about. Virtual assistants are automated self-service solutions that emulate human interaction to perform particular tasks. Virtual assistants (VAs) encompass multiple aspects of artificial intelligence (AI) like machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP). VAs are more like humans – they understand, learn, reason, and work.

The tech industry regards voice as the next best interface; speech being a more convenient, faster, and an interactive way to communicate. Moreover, it is easily adaptable. With heavy investments in AI and intelligent VAs from the tech giants such as Amazon, Apple, Google, and Microsoft, VAs are the technology to look out for. The intent of these giants is to increase usage of VAs as a preferred method to do business, communicate, and interact with brands.

With all the industries investing in the technology to gain a competitive advantage, life sciences and healthcare industry is no exception. The industry is striving to develop patient engagement through the use of AI-driven virtual assistant services.

Now, with consumers also turning to voice-activated VAs for tasks they usually perform on smartphones, healthcare providers and patients alike are beginning to do the same using devices from tech giants. These virtual health assistants, if appropriately incorporated by the medical community, have the potential to not just give a cost advantage, but also significantly improve patient outcomes. They have the power to among the relationship between patients, physicians, and companies.

 

It is just a matter of time before virtual assistant services become a mandate for all the patient support programs. VAs provide a platform for the patients with barriers (behavioral and physical) to get a more efficient and effective care model, ensure proper access and education they need for their medications, provide an integrated model which automates the workflow activities, and a highly connected model ensuring easy access. Providing patients with personalized information is also essential for the companies looking at the trend toward a value-based care and the rising complexity of the healthcare system.

VAs provide personalized aid by answering day-to-day queries about specific conditions and medications, providing instructions and making recommendations based on customers’ data. The consumers are also well-connected by integrating their calendars for reminders on appointments, medication refills, checkup dates, etc. VAs can also help procure drugs through online pharmacies based on the patients’ prescriptions. VAs uses are not just limited to responsive data but also help in proactively tracking of symptoms and medications and subsequently assisting in condition-based maintenance. These interactions will provide patients with the most personalized and accurate information and help adhere to better treatment, eventually providing a long-term benefit. These interactions also enhance the patients’ experience as they give an essence of individual attention and not just standardized care.

 

The pharma companies profit from these technologies as well, as VAs help create business value and play a vital role in reducing the costs through automation. VAs should be used to eliminate time-draining processes by automating them. They can support company’s sales teams with patient onboarding process, patient engagement service programs, and also provide them with the necessary information to improve business outcomes.

VAs provide an opportunity for the company to interact, build relationships, and deliver on-brand experiences. Companies should leverage consumers’ data to get insights on what they want and fill in the gap by adopting appropriate service offerings. They can also leverage innovative ways to increase consumer engagement with the help of their data.

The new offerings should help create an engaging and integrated patient-centric support program and differentiate them from peers, providing a competitive advantage.

 

The bigger question here is to what extent you can rely on these machines? A small error by these VAs can lead to a larger problem, having a wrong drug or following a wrong set of instructions can cause bigger trouble. VAs may be useful in streamlining the routine and making things easier, but must be restricted to assisting the process and shouldn’t replace the traditional practices, as there are many other questions which are yet to be answered. How protected is your confidential health information? Do we have appropriate regulations and processes to govern? Where do you draw the line on what information VAs can glean from the patients’ interactions? The fear of unknown always resides but the challenge lies on how efficiently we can ensure these VAs are regulatory compliant.

Well, only time can tell us if these VAs for the patients will be as powerful as JARVIS is to Iron Man? Meanwhile, let’s keep our fingers crossed and wait for an upgrade to the next mark.

 


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