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Chatbots to drive cost savings in healthcare

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Chatbot deployment will be dominated by Far East and China over the next five years.
Chatbot deployment will be dominated by Far East and China over the next five years.

Annual cost savings derived from the adoption of chatbots in healthcare will reach $3.6 billion globally by 2022, up from an estimated $2.8 million in 2017.

This is according to a Juniper Research report: Digital Health: Vendor Analysis, Emerging Technologies & Market Forecasts 2017-2022. The report found the growth will average 320% per annum, as artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbots will drive improved customer experiences for patients.

It notes by using sophisticated chatbot systems, patients will be able to access care more quickly and easily, reducing pressure on overworked healthcare systems by ensuring more efficient interactions.

A report by Citizen, a digital design and technology company, notes healthcare organisations seeking differentiation will gain a tremendous advantage by thoughtfully deploying chatbot technology. Like the early days of apps, companies are trying to figure out what the right fit is for their brand, it adds. Still, they've recognised the bot movement as a potential game-changer for support, engagement and commerce, notes Citizen.

Juniper notes despite trials by, for example, the UK's National Health Service, chatbot deployment will be dominated by Far East and China over the next five years. Over half of the annual savings realised by chatbots will be attributable to this region in 2022, it adds. Owing to the varied quality of care in countries such as China, chatbots will be useful for directing patients to appropriate services, which in turn will drive adoption, says the study.

In SA, Discovery Health recently went live with Pypestream, a messaging and chatbot platform that allows businesses to chat with customers at scale via mobile messaging.

The research predicted that chatbots, when used to triage patients, would have a dramatic impact on healthcare efficiency. However, service providers should focus on overcoming the current poor level of interoperability of many healthcare IT systems in order to enable chatbots to unlock the full possible benefits, says the study.

Citizen says leading organisations are using chatbots and related technologies to serve their users, but missing from this list are big healthcare providers. Tapping into the expertise and success of forward-thinking companies to deliver a truly innovative healthcare experience remains on the table for all major players in the industry, it adds.

"We believe that healthcare and banking providers using bots can expect average time savings of just over four minutes per enquiry, equating to average cost savings in the range of $0.50-$0.70 per interaction. As artificial intelligence advances, reducing reliance on human representatives undoubtedly spells job losses," says Lauren Foye, senior researcher for Juniper.

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