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Busting 6 myths about automated patient engagement

Healthcare providers need to engage patients between encounters, to meet the objectives of value-based care. But traditional in-person or telephonic methods cost both time and money. To offer support and outreach guidance that patients need to improve outcomes – without overextending already constrained resources – healthcare systems are looking at automating wherever possible.

Automated patient engagement means that clinicians conduct ongoing, digital conversations with patients between visits. They can schedule communications based on the patient’s needs, whether it’s managing a chronic disease, checking in after discharge or preparing for an upcoming surgery. Expertly designed “bots” have conversations with patients to make sure they are on track for better outcomes.

This is a relatively new approach, and it challenges some of the systemic beliefs that have built up over many years in healthcare. Here are some of the most common myths around automated patient engagement:

  1. Patients are not comfortable talking to bots. People have come to expect automated customer service interactions in almost every other industry. Gartner estimates that by 2020, 85% of all customer service interactions will be without a human. Chat paradigms are familiar and comfortable for patients, and they are available 24/7.
  2. Automation is too generic. Advanced technical capabilities enable automated conversations to draw from health record data and clinical history, making it more personalized to the patient. No patient gets the same conversation twice, and no two conversations are the same.
  3. Bots will miss nuances required to offer effective guidance. While humans bring bias into every interaction, bots don’t. Automated conversations offer no judgment and are generally more consistent. Bots will take patient information and respond with the most effective, evidence-based guidance every time.
  4. Data collection is just a survey process. Every interaction with the patient holds the opportunity to do more with information given. An automated conversational system offers immediate insight and education, which breaks the old paternalistic model of healthcare and enables patients to participate more fully in their own care.
  5. Older patients are not digitally enabled. People aged 65 and older account for about one-third of U.S. healthcare spending, so it is important that patient engagement efforts be successful with this population. Our clients have found that Medicare beneficiaries fully engage with our automated patient engagement solution, and that number increases when you include their caregivers.
  6. There is no financial return on automated patient engagement. For financially constrained health systems, it is important to weigh the return on investment for new solutions. Automation enables healthcare to support patients in a more ongoing or collaborative way, which builds a better long-term relationship. It also can help triage patients, so only those who can most benefit from a visit come into the office, leading to a higher-coded reimbursement mix.

Conversational automated systems help healthcare maintain a high level of patient engagement. We’re talking more about next-generation patient and provider engagement at the Connected Health Conference in Boston, Massachusetts this week.

Editor’s note: Allscripts recently formed a partnership with Conversa Health,  an automated patient conversation platform, to power Allscripts CareInMotion™ Engage. You can learn more about the solution here.

Comments 2

  1. Anthony Whaley 11/02/2017

    How you c an say a machine talking to people can be more better than talking to a human. I myserlf am a patient with my own medical issue why would I want to talk to a machine, that sound so —– Most senior citizens and people with psych issue and so on need to hear a human voice rather that a machine we know technology is here but lets not go so far to say it has taken over completey where would the voice of human go after this part of there JOB is taken from them HUH!!!

  2. Phil Marshall, MD, MPH 11/06/2017

    I am pleased that our Allscripts friends passed along your comment to me. I’m a physician, but more relevant to this conversation I’m the creator of the chatbot product you wrote about. I personally share your opinion that robots could never replace humans. The caring and compassion that humans possess are unique. But there is a lot of evidence that long wait times to see a doctor, the high cost of health care, the high number of complications after a surgery or a hospital discharge, and the challenges in keeping Americans healthy are due in large part to the fact that humans are required in almost all aspects of our health care. But there just aren’t enough doctors, nurses and other care team members to keep up with all the demands.

    We believe that it’s possible for chatbots to help without interfering with that unique human element. For example, we believe that a doctor’s practice can automate reminders to their patients when they are due for a test such as a cholesterol check, or for something like a flu shot. Rather than relying on the doctor to remember to call the patient, systems can reach out to make sure that all patients are staying on track with their preventive screening tests and services.

    The service you read about is one more step in that direction. Just as a physician can automate things like “Make sure that all patients are reminded to get their flu shot in the fall”, so too can they automate things like “For patients who just left the hospital after their hip surgery, make sure they are not having a fever over 99 degrees” or “For people with asthma, double check that they are still taking their medication”. The logic is approved by physicians, and sophisticated enough to take patients’ own situation into consideration so that any such message is personalized to your needs.

    And then you can see that this could go one step further. For the patient that says that they are having a fever, the chatbot can automatically say “Hmm, that sounds like something we should talk to you about. Can we give you a call?” Such a system can reach patients as conveniently and easily as possible, 24 hours a day and 7 days a week, to make sure that they are doing ok, and then make sure they talk to a professional when they need to. Our goal is to help patients be in touch with physicians when they need to.

    This helps patients, doctors and the care teams to reduce wait times, and give patients timely advice that can help avoid complications. I hope this helps explain our philosophy. We all want to make sure that our human resources in health care are used as best they possibly can be.

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