Artificial intelligence (AI) is here to stay. You already use it every day, whether you are aware of it or not: AI helps you find the perfect movie on Netflix, filters what’s trending on your personalized Facebook news feed, and plays music on demand via Amazon’s Alexa. AI is transforming business models, processes, and strategies in multiple industries. Healthcare, specifically the physician practice, is no exception. Using AI to improve both the patient experience and operational efficiency through automation is the sensical place to begin.
AI technologies such as neural networks, machine learning, or natural language processing can look complex, even scary, for non-techies. The reality is, there are simple AI technologies that can make a huge difference in small- and medium-sized practices. Most of these technologies identify and mechanize patterns. Sometimes, those patterns are hidden in the airwaves, as is the case with speech recognition. Other times, the patterns are buried in the curious way we behave day after day.
The term AI generally refers to computer algorithms that are able to emulate a task performed by a human. These tasks could be as simple as vacuuming a room or automatically detecting cavities from X-rays, which the startup dentistry.ai does. One technology in particular is becoming quite powerful: Robotic Process Automation through bots. A bot is a computer program that communicates with humans in plain English. Text messages are the medium of communication for channels such as Facebook Messenger or short message service (SMS). If you add in a speech recognizer and/or synthesizer, the bot can speak as well. For example, Alexa has a library of applications called Skills, where you can do anything from order a pizza to check your credit card balance. A bot’s purpose is to automate repetitive and mundane tasks, freeing humans to tackle more complex responsibilities.
Three uses for bots in medical practices:
Appointments: New AI chatbots can automate the lifecycle of appointments via text message and/or talking with patients in plain English. These services enable patients to book, confirm, and reschedule medical appointments in sync with existing EHR calendars. Practices reduced no-shows between 30 to 50 percent and saved at least 25 hours of phone call follow-ups per provider in a month, according to research of both Nimblr and drchono users.
Accounting: AI programs can automate several parts of the accounting life cycle. The routing of invoices can be automatically discovered and performed. Routine questions about expenses and receipts can be performed by bots. For example, one of the biggest pain points for accounting departments is account reconciliation with banks and other institutions. AI programs have been taught to read bank statements, automate the process, and help discover fraud.
Health insurance: The rules covering health insurance contracts are complex and normally require a human to interpret them. One recent advancement is “smart contracts.” These perform most of the grunt work of getting authorizations from the insurance company to the healthcare provider and explaining the options to patients. Smart contracts are generic legal statement templates that live on the cloud and execute payments without a middle man. Eliminating the middle man represents cost cutting and efficiencies opportunities. Smart contracts allow healthcare practices to optimize insurance payments and cut through the red tape.