Artificial Intelligence (AI) is transforming many aspects of our lives, including the healthcare fields. AI-powered applications can help diagnose diseases, recommend treatments, monitor patients, and provide information. And the speed with which you can tap into this information is mind-boggling.
While Artificial intelligence (AI) is changing the way we communicate, including in the healthcare sector, is it the” be all and end all” it is being represented as by AI companies, and to what extent can or should you use it in your practice?
AI-powered applications can help schedule appointments, confirm insurance, send reminders, and provide information. But can AI also answer the healthcare office’s phone and interact with patients effectively?
There are some potential benefits of using AI to answer an office’s phone, such as:
- Saving time and money. Practices are often busy and overwhelmed by phone calls from patients, suppliers, labs, and other providers. An AI-powered virtual receptionist could possibly handle and prioritize the calls, manage simple requests, and transfer urgent or complex cases to the staff.
- Patients may have questions or concerns that they want to discuss with their provider. However, they may not be able to reach the provider easily or have to wait for a long time for a response. An AI-powered phone app can provide instant and personalized answers to common questions, such as treatment options, payment plans, health tips and so on.
- Improving patient education. Patients may not always understand their health conditions or follow the protocols they were given in the practice. An AI-powered phone app can provide educational content, such as articles, videos, quizzes, or feedback, to help patients learn more about their health and improve their compliance.
However, there are also some major drawbacks of using AI to answer calls from patients, such as:
- Losing human connection. Like most patients, I prefer to talk to a real human being who can empathize with my emotions, pain, listen to my story of what happened, and provide me with appropriate reassurance and support.
- An AI-powered voice assistant cannot capture the nuances of human communication, such as tone, sarcasm, humor, or irony. It may also make mistakes or misunderstand the patient’s intent or context.
- Raising ethical and legal issues. Patients may have privacy and security concerns about sharing their personal and sensitive dental information with an AI-powered system. They may also question the accuracy and reliability of the information provided by the system and who is responsible for any errors or harms caused by it. Moreover, they may wonder how the system uses their data and whether it respects their preferences and values.
On a Personal Note:
I am paying for personalized care when I am calling my healthcare provider. I often have questions, the staff treat me with care and attention, and once they know me they even make personalized comments or ask me a question or two. There is human interaction that makes the experience more pleasant and a strong relationship.
Trying to schedule an appointment with me is sometimes an exercise in patience because we have to go back and forth to find a good time in my schedule that matches one in the doctor’s. I also need to know how long I need for the appointment based on my current problem.
For potential new patients calling in, and especially if they are having a physical problem they want to see you about, it would be a practice killer to have AI answering the call. It cannot be programmed to express the correct human emotions and responses that give the personal touch.
For example, if I call a new-to-me dental office and I hit an AI, I personally would hang up and try the next practice who are going to CARE about ME and ask me personal questions about myself and make a friend of me before I even decide to go ahead and make an appointment in that practice. Marketing dollars will be wasted if I hit AI (which is a machine that has been programmed but is limited as to appropriate, empathetic responses).
If I am calling my current dentist because I have a massive pain in my mouth or I just broke a tooth, AI cannot ask me how much it hurts and appropriately say, “OMG, that’s terrible! Has it been keeping you up a night? So sorry to hear that. How long has it been causing you that much pain? Sounds like we better get you in for an emergency appointment right away. How does today at 3 p.m. work for you?”
Hitting voice mail and leaving a message is annoying enough because you are calling when YOU are available and you may not be available when the staff call back. Voice mail is already irritating enough.
In order to grow your practice, it is important to show you care about your patients and put a lot of love into them with a human who has human emotions. This also nurtures patient referrals which is still any practice owner’s favourite way of getting new patients.
Therefore, using AI to answer the office’s phone may have some disadvantages for both staff and patients. It may be wise to use AI as a complementary tool for diagnostics rather than a replacement for human interaction. Keep the human touch and keep your practice growing!
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