AI: The Unexpected Trust-Building Tool in Healthcare

Josh Weiner, CEO, Solutionreach
FEBRUARY 10, 2020
doctor and patient
Photo/Thumb have been modified. Courtesy of National Cancer Institute. 

Healthcare is changing at a more rapid pace than ever before. From ongoing growth in small practice acquisition and “minute clinics” to the shift in patient expectations, healthcare organizations are facing never-before-seen challenges. The biggest problem may be that the resources of facilities are stretched as they take on more patients, but to prevent losing them, organizations need to give even more attention and personalized care to patients to ensure satisfaction.

The Patient-Provider Relationship study revealed that one in three patients were at risk of leaving their provider. Many cited dissatisfaction with their experience and service as the reason for leaving. Another survey from the Physicians Foundation found that 20% of patients were thinking about switching providers and 30% said it was because of service issues.

In addition, more and more patients are looking for a better digital experience. In fact, in one study, more than 60% of patients said digital services played an important role when choosing a physician. And in another study, nearly half of patients surveyed said they would choose a provider who offered digital services over one who did not. Specifically:
  • 51% would choose a doctor who let them fill out paperwork online before a visit
  • 48% would choose a doctor who provided online test results
  • 46% would choose a doctor who stored medical records digitally
  • 44% would choose a doctor that allowed them to schedule appointments online
It’s no wonder many organizations are prioritizing patient satisfaction and experience. Focusing on these elements can strengthen relationships and build trust and loyalty. Many are looking to artificial intelligence (AI) as one of the main ways they may be able to turn the tide on patient switching and improve the overall experience for patients while relieving some of the burden on staff.

Ninety-four percent of respondents in a survey said they believed AI was the most reliable path toward equitable, accessible and affordable healthcare and 36% said they expected AI to improve the patient experience.

Why does AI hold the power to improve patient experience? Simple. The AI that is available today is mostly narrow AI. The technology is great for automating mundane, repetitive tasks, or “narrow” functions like responding to inquiries and directing patients to the right place. When these things are simple and seamless, they can create a more responsive experience for patients, which builds trust and loyalty. This can help reduce incoming phone calls as well as some of the outbound tasks like filling open appointments.

There are many ways to use AI today for simple patient experience needs:
  • Respond 24/7: AI-driven SMS text and website chatbots have been used for quite some time in other industries. They provide an interactive experience for patients where they can ask questions and get an automated response or be directed to the right person. The use of the appropriate AI tools can strike a balance between efficient automated responses and the patients’ need for human interactions.
  • Improve appointment reminders and confirmations: No-shows are one of the biggest challenges for all healthcare providers. There is always room for improvement and AI can provide valuable insights to help refine reminders. It can also be used to improve confirmations. Older systems can’t read any response but a simple Y for yes or C for confirm. Many patients send back other responses and the system marks them as unknown or unconfirmed. AI can “learn” to read a virtually unlimited set of responses from “sure” to a thumbs-up emoji, reducing the need for staff to follow up.
  • Identify potential no-shows and fill appointments: AI can analyze patient behavior to predict the possibility of no-shows, late payments or follow-through on treatments. This allows the facility to plan for appropriate outreach. It can also automatically contact patients waiting for specific appointment types when they are available.
  • Post-appointment care plans: With more revenue tied to outcomes, helping patients stay compliant is critical. You can use AI to establish the right cadence and content for post-care plans based on prescribed treatment and patient behavior.
  • Analyze patient sentiment: AI can scan patient reviews and surveys to identify trends and key words so organizations can see patterns in that feedback.
For many healthcare facilities, these tasks are done manually or require manual follow up. That can mean it takes longer, is less effective and leaves the facility at risk for mistakes. In turn, it can be a less than ideal experience for patients and staff. Using AI improves these tasks, but more importantly, it frees staff to focus on improving the in-person experience for patients. That is the surest way to build loyalty.

About the Author: Josh Weiner is the CEO of Solutionreach. He joined Solutionreach from Summit Partners, a leading global growth equity firm. Through his work with Summit Partners, Josh served on the Solutionreach board of directors for three years. Josh is a graduate of Stanford University and resides in Salt Lake City with his wife, daughter, and golden retriever Willow (who often makes cameos at the Solutionreach office). Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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