By 2050 – one in four people in Europe and North America will be over the age of 65, ultimately leaving the healthcare system to deal with more complex health conditions and an increase in patients.
As the western world is slowly facing a crisis of an ageing population, the healthcare sector is now experiencing even more strain on resources and requiring additional funding to keep up. One method to alleviate some of this strain is integrating AI technology features that can assist with the shortfall of healthcare practitioners. Cloud-based customer engagement platform providers like Connex One have taken the first step in providing AI communication tools to equip healthcare contact centres with faster and more efficient communication methods.
Meeting growing health care demands with AI communication
Governments need to keep up with the need to scale up the healthcare sector but this requires an increase in spending due to the need for massive structural and transformational change, which is hardly sustainable. According to WHO, there will be 40 million new health sector jobs by 2030, but still a projected shortfall of 18.2 million physicians, nurses and midwives globally.
By integrating AI communication technology, healthcare professionals can reduce their admin and talk times, and use their time where it adds the most value – providing for patients.
In some industries, there is great concern that replacing roles within a workforce with AI solutions will contribute towards more unemployment. This is not the case in the healthcare sector. The European healthcare sector in particular faces a significant workforce gap that is only expected to widen in the coming years. Automated communication features such as digital assistants and AI ChatBots will vastly alleviate workforce shortages in healthcare as the demand is set to increase.
The role of Digital Assistance
Digital assistance has played a major role during the recent COVID-19 crisis, by helping staff, patients and citizens to stay informed at all times when services are changing. Healthcare professionals were overwhelmed with phone calls or emails from people desperate to seek medical advice.
Eye healthcare practitioners such as Moorfields Eye Hospital, the world’s largest eye hospital, outside of India and China, have welcomed the advancement of AI communication into the healthcare sector with the use of Chatbots – accessing more customers by answering general inquiries about whether they can change their appointment, general queries about the hospital or general eye care.
Optegra, another leading eye healthcare provider utilised the Connex One customer engagement platform to maintain efficient communication with patients during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Since moving over to the Connex One platform, we have never looked back. A great system for communicating with our patients”, says Andrew Ward, Contact Centre Manager at Optegra Eye Healthcare.
The future role of ChatBots
Software technology providers are now looking into the future for healthcare communication – focusing on how AI ChatBots play an important role in holding automated clinical conversations with patients virtually, and Connex One plans to lead this change with their new feature, Athena AI.
According to Dr Phil Webb, head of Value-Based Healthcare, Cwm Taf, NHS Wales, AI chatbots have ‘freed up hundreds of NHS staff by answering general advice questions about COVID-19.’
Dr Webb also noted the importance of designing a user-centric virtual assistant, one that can assess customer or patient sentiment through text or speech, and evaluate whether somebody is frustrated, angry or satisfied with the service. This type of AI insight will help direct queries to a live agent swiftly if a more personal level of assistance is needed.
The time available for conversation will always be limited in public healthcare services like the NHS, due to a large number of patients.
One of the more crucial benefits of virtual ChatBot assistants is that they can simultaneously engage in an infinite number of parallel conversations while maintaining brand values and a professional tone, even when conversations become repetitive. The pivotal shift will be pairing ChatBot assistants with omnichannel customer service software. Omnichannel service software enables communication across all platforms such as email, phone, SMS and social media channels, and this will allow healthcare companies to centralise their communication and log all information in a streamlined central platform.
AI Forecasting for Healthcare Processes
For the healthcare sector to have the ability to forecast is a critical function for the future. The ability allows for short and long term planning for expected future demands. In an ever-changing environment, the task of scheduling becomes increasingly difficult to do, and therefore, more healthcare facilities will begin to rely on AI to accurately predict and optimise scheduling.
The NHS has begun trials for machine learning systems designed to help hospitals in England anticipate the demand on resources caused by COVID-19. AI Scheduling tools are designed to anticipate incoming workflow and calculate the correct amount of healthcare communication resources necessary.
Scheduling AI tools are already in use today for Contact Centres across several industries, using customer engagement software such as the Connex One Platform to predict the volume of staff needed for customer communication. The next step for these types of AI scheduling tools will be the anticipating and scheduling of medical appointments according to the level of available beds and nurses and doctors on duty.
Centralised healthcare communication for patients and reducing staff burnout
Chatbots can be extremely helpful, but sometimes you just need to speak to a real person. Finding the right balance of a chatbot that is integrated into a larger Omnichannel communication strategy is key.
The role of centralised Omnichannel communication is to offer the right balance of communication options (email, text, SMS, live chat etc.) that can integrate all your customer journeys into one platform. This is through an Omnichannel approach, meaning if you have a patient that has reached out over webchat, but now decided to follow-up with a call instead, all their information is logged into one central platform. This omnichannel approach helps to streamline the process for both customers and healthcare providers, maintaining secure patient data, and also allowing patients to continue their communication progress through a different channel without having to repeat their story.
Customer engagement software such as Connex One utilises a skills-based routing system that will assign the best-suited person to deal with the patient’s query. This offers not only an improved customer journey experience but also enhances the healthcare practitioners experience. Freeing up more time for health practitioners to focus on direct patient care, reduces their chances of frustration or burnout. Simple queries can be answered using the Chatbot, allowing for quick response times, whereas more complex questions can be directed to relevant channels accordingly.
Artificial Intelligence is set to make huge strides for the healthcare sector in the future by offering more accessibility and communication channels, reaching more patients and freeing up doctors time to focus on patient care by 2025.
At Connex One, we are proud to be part of the journey of improving healthcare processes and continue to develop leading Artificial Intelligence features to improve communication for all industries.
To learn more about how Connex One is helping our clients to overhaul their customer journeys, visit: www.connexone.co.ke or get in touch with our team at firstname.lastname@example.org or request a free demo of our platform here.