Why AI is essential for better patient engagement?

By Annalhees Elm, Regional Vice President Healthcare Division, Nuance Communications

Patient expectations of their healthcare experiences have been growing for several years, a trend accelerated by the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic. The benchmark is set by leading retailers and banks, where competitive advantage often goes to the brand with the best customer experience.  

Just as consumers will switch brands when they have a poor experience with a retailer, patients are increasingly likely to change health systems if they are dissatisfied.

By using AI-powered patient engagement solutions, health systems can offer the consumer-grade experiences patients expect, building stronger relationships with patients, their families, and their communities. And these solutions bring additional benefits, alleviating clinician workloads, boosting operational efficiency, and giving patients more control over how they manage their health.

Patient engagement solutions should bring automation and orchestration to the entire journey, delivering consistent, simple experiences regardless of which channel patients engage in.

Improving the patient experience

One of the most effective ways to strengthen patient relationships is understanding and anticipating what they need at every stage of their care journey.

Patient engagement solutions should bring automation and orchestration to the entire journey, delivering consistent, simple experiences regardless of which channel patients engage in.

Effective engagement is vital from pre-visit support and coordination of complex appointments to post-visit education, prescription refills, and online billing. With a comprehensive platform that adds a conversational AI layer to every communication between patients and their health system, they feel known and understood. They feel more connected to the organization and their care teams. And they feel more invested in their care, leading to better outcomes.

Helping clinicians focus on care

Burnout is a constant challenge for healthcare organizations, and one that has been exacerbated by the extra workload the pandemic has put on care teams and support staff. By reducing the number of inbound questions with automated outreach, and enabling patients to resolve routine inquiries through self-service, health systems can lighten the burden and reduce burnout.

Let us look at an example. Too often, patients attend appointments without the necessary preparations—maybe they have not got their most recent images or haven’t had the proper lab tests—adding more stress for already overworked clinicians. With proactive reminders and helpful information and requests automatically delivered in their channel of choice, this scenario becomes much less common.

By using AI-powered patient engagement solutions to keep patients informed and enable them to self-serve, health systems can reduce unnecessary work for clinicians, can to focus on care delivery and quality. Effective self-service and a proactive approach to automated communications also ease the burden on support staff, reducing the risk of burnout across the extended health system team.

Increasing operational efficiency

Patient Access Centers (PACs) are under enormous pressure to provide outstanding patient experience while minimizing costs and handling higher contact volumes. An intelligent IVR can be hugely valuable in helping achieve these goals.

Using the latest Natural Language Understanding (NLU) and conversational AI technologies, the best IVR systems allow patients to state their inquiry in their own words, rather than forcing them to choose from a limited menu of options.

After seamlessly authenticating patients using voice biometrics and establishing what they want to accomplish, a conversational IVR can complete everyday tasks. That eliminates the need for PAC agents or front-desk staff to deal with things like rescheduling appointments, prescription refills, bill payments, and other routine tasks. When the IVR receives an inquiry it cannot resolve, it can route the caller to the most appropriate person or team, providing all the context of the patient’s recent interactions and the conversation so far.

Data is the key to better patient engagement

Patient engagement solutions can offer enormous business value to health systems, but they are only as good as the data they use.

Plenty of AI solutions can understand the words people say, but effective engagement depends on systems that can understand the intent behind those words. Training AI models to understand hundreds of patient intents requires data from across the health system—and that requires collaboration between business functions.

Connecting patient engagement solutions to data from other systems—like EHR, CRM, and billing systems—also enables automated resolutions for more intents and the ability to personalize interactions based on a complete view of patient information.

The most advanced patient engagement solutions take this data-driven intelligence one step further, bringing in data from the health system and other agencies to create a holistic patient view. This allows the AI to anticipate patient needs and offer proactive assistance or recommendations, reducing the need for incoming contacts and helping improve care delivery even further. For example, if the system understands that a patient does not own a car, care teams can factor that into decisions about appointment locations and treatment plans.

Better outcomes for everyone

By improving patient engagement with AI-powered solutions, everybody wins.

Healthcare organizations can operate more efficiently, reduce costs, and strengthen patient relationships. Clinicians and support staff can focus on providing care, making the best use of clinic time, and streamlining patient journeys. And patients can manage their care on their own terms, increasing accountability and adherence to treatment plans—and improving care outcomes.