Roni Jamesmeyer, senior healthcare manager at Five9, believes if healthcare organisations offer regular, personalised communications checking in on patients, it will have a direct impact on outcomes
AI is increasingly being used to generate efficiencies within healthcare services and help to address the shortage in frontline staff
The NHS crisis, which involves the service coping with difficult issues across several regions, is at the forefront of the news.
And GPs continue to experience overwhelming pressure following the pandemic.
There are 2,273 patients, on average, per GP, a record high, and the crucial support staff who form the foundation of surgeries are also suffering.
Due to a lack of support staff and complaints of an increase in patient abuse of receptionists, some GP offices were forced to close in January of this year, and it is clear that the abuse is related to heightened patient frustrations.
One surgery reported receiving more than 600 calls by only 8:50am from patients attempting to schedule a doctor’s appointment.
And, for the 62 people who were waiting, it took about 40 minutes for them to get through to a receptionist.
It is undeniable that the ways in which patient contact is now managed are inadequate, but what can be done given growing patient numbers?
The vital role of digital healthcare technologies is revolutionising almost all aspects of care in the NHS, from remote monitoring of patients, to the rollout of the NHS App to support mass COVID vaccinations.
However, other technologies still need to be used to their full advantage.
Technology is not about entirely removing human interactions, but empowering staff in ways that enable a higher level of care, supporting frontline staff to deliver their best
Conversational AI, for example, is a proven technology currently used in many settings, including healthcare, to reduce the burden of call handling on pressured healthcare staff.
Conversational AI can help handle high call volumes, collect pertinent information from patients without transferring the call to agents, and expedite the most-urgent cases to NHS staff.
Such AI can be deployed within healthcare contact centres and GP surgeries to facilitate faster response times by collecting information and screening callers before contacting staff.
These Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVAs) not only play a vital role in alleviating strain on support staff, but can also be used to reduce administrative burden and increase security.
Crucially, it also helps to deliver a seamless, efficient patient experience, ensuring timely response and appropriate routing.
Let’s explore how this technology is already being implemented and how it is delivering for staff and patients alike.
Using conversational AI to support call steering is currently the number one application of IVAs across the healthcare industry.
Routing callers correctly using natural language processing (NLP) to the best available person, along with their relevant information, achieves many things.
It lowers the abandoned call rate, keeps callers from bouncing around in frustration in the IVR call trees, and removes unnecessary work for call handlers.
Supporting this, queued callbacks and SMS follow-up notifications are also popular use cases, with healthcare professionals increasingly seeking to use this technology to arrange follow-up communications and help deliver broader 24-7 services.
In this highly-regulated setting, ensuring stringent data protection and cyber security strategies is essential, and an IVA-based solution is one way healthcare organisations can demonstrate mitigation
After all, patients are increasingly coming to expect the same type of anytime, anywhere service they receive when interacting with companies in retail, banking, hospitality, and other industries.
It is important to say, though, that such technology is not about entirely removing human interactions, but empowering staff in ways that enable a higher level of care, supporting frontline staff to deliver their best.
The second-most-popular use for IVAs is authenticating users.
Since almost 100% of healthcare-related calls involve personal health information, identification, verification, and authentication are necessary.
IVAs save 20-30 seconds authenticating a user, saving contact staff from a time-draining menial task that technology can now much more effectively handle.
Healthcare teams are also using IVAs for automating password resets and activating and deactivating employees from backend systems to prevent possible security breaches during the offboarding process.
These simple tasks can be done by IVA 24/7 and remove human error potential.
Adoption of IVA frequently begins with one specific use case and then spreads to others where automation makes sense and offers significant benefits
In this highly-regulated setting, ensuring stringent data protection and cyber security strategies is essential, and an IVA-based solution is one way healthcare organisations can demonstrate mitigation.
Finally, around 15% of consumers in the healthcare industry utilise IVAs for straightforward tasks like checking test results, answering FAQs, or other simple tasks.
Adoption of IVA frequently begins with one specific use case and then spreads to others where automation makes sense and offers significant benefits.
The NHS is already undergoing a digital transition that is transforming how patients interact with NHS services and relieving pressures on staff.
And innovative technologies are being adopted more widely across the industry. But it is vital that they are also applied to aid call takers.
Technology powered by AI can support employees while enabling patients to get the care they require, when they require it.