As experiences turn increasingly digital, health organizations must invest in solutions that touch the entire patient journey.
Digital healthcare is experiencing rapid growth, driven by growing acceptance among patients (due in large part to the pandemic) and workforce shortages that are not letting up.
COVID-19 forced an industry that was once notoriously slow in digital transformation to rapidly enable virtual and contactless patient support. With pandemic lockdowns and quarantines, doctors had no choice but to conduct virtual appointments, and fill prescriptions solely online. Hospitals, meanwhile, struggled to provide COVID and non-COVID care with an exhausted and overwhelmed workforce of doctors, nurses and staff — many of whom left the profession altogether once the pandemic eased.
The silver lining that emerged from this dark period is a greater adoption and acceptance of digital healthcare solutions among patients and providers alike, and a realization that more digital services needed to be brought online, and quickly, in particular to serve more rural and remote areas, as McKinsey highlighted in a recent report.
With the pandemic receding further behind us, the digital future of healthcare is coming into sharper focus as a way to enable an industry-wide shift toward consumer-centric care delivery models, as noted by the World Economic Forum. Many of today’s digital solutions enable access to patient services with greater ease and efficiency than ever before, but speed and accessibility alone are insufficient to drive long-term value and positive outcomes.
Healthcare consumers are now demanding greater personalization in digital health, yet many solutions fall short. Basic FAQ chatbots, for example, were adequate as a stopgap measure at the height of the pandemic but they fail to provide personalized services due to their limited scope. In addition, as noted in a recent report from Accenture, patients and providers must make sense of numerous disconnected digital solutions and health portals, with patients facing “long waits, ineffective care interventions and poorly coordinated handoffs.”
As a result, healthcare organizations are increasingly deploying digital front doors staffed by virtual agents that can drive better patient journeys and meet consumer demand through fast service, and by integrating disparate systems into a singular user experience. This approach has the added effect of easing workforce shortages, as health providers can use virtual agents for routine administrative and scheduling tasks.
The AI-Powered Digital Front Door
Digital health experience platforms that seamlessly integrate with healthcare systems and EHRs will be a central feature of the future of health. These platforms leverage personalized health data to guide patients through health journeys tailored to their needs. As highlighted in an article from League, these next-generation healthcare experience platforms leverage existing data to “deliver personalized health activities, check-ins and actionable insights.”
Conversational AI agents are at the helm of this new frontier of digital healthcare experiences. Unlike virtual agents of the past, which were robotic and unemotional, Conversational AI agents are equipped with natural language understanding, sentiment analysis and multilingual capabilities, so they can conduct human-like conversations with patients. These conversational experiences are all backed by extensive integration frameworks, allowing digital agents to provide patients with personalized services and guidance. For example, Amelia integrates with Epic and Oracle Cerner for EHRs and healthcare systems, as well as Salesforce and Workday.
To understand the value of digital agents in healthcare, consider the following scenario: A health clinic hires Amelia as its digital concierge. A female patient, whose mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at an early age, recently turned 30. Based on her family history and her doctor’s recommendation, Amelia, which is integrated with the patient’s EHR, texts the woman to schedule her first mammogram.
Amelia then guides the patient through scheduling her appointment by connecting with booking systems of her preferred provider or hospital, or nearby screening clinics, and the patient books the earliest appointment to fit her schedule. Prior to the mammogram appointment, Amelia guides the patient through the pre check-in procedure. Amelia will repeat the process if follow-up appointments are required, relieving overburdened staff of these routine tasks so they can focus on others.
Integrated digital health journeys, enabled by Conversational AI, are immensely beneficial for both patients and healthcare providers. When healthcare experiences are connected and tailored toward patients’ individual needs, care delivery moves from being reactive to proactive, leading to better health outcomes. Proactive healthcare delivery also supports growth for payer and provider organizations, by reducing care delays, improving health outcomes, and delivering "more cost-effective care".
Overall, health organizations – from providers to payers to pharmacies – are beginning to realize the potential of the digital front door: accessible, proactive, and personalized care that improves operational efficiencies to free staff from mundane, time-consuming work so they can drive better health patient outcomes.