Top 12 Healthcare Chatbots
The Medical Futurist | 12 min | 16 January 2020
Meet Molly, Ginger and Replika – some of your new chatbot friends aiming to make your life better. In the last years, smart algorithm-powered, text or voice-based interfaces have multiplied, and they are also taking their place in healthcare. The Medical Futurist believes they will ease the burden on doctors in primary care and help patients learn to take care of their health responsibly. Would you like to try one? Check out the following video about healthcare chatbots:
The age of talking algorithms is here
In 2018, Google stunned the world with the latest feature of the Google Assistant, Duplex, which was able to make an appointment in a hair salon in eerily human-sounding conversational sentences. Chatbots, computer programs or smart algorithms conducting conversation via auditory or textual methods, are becoming more and more popular and widespread. Do you want to know more dad jokes? Read the latest news? Figure out riddles? Plenty of messenger bots offer forms of entertainment.
Moreover, chatbots are even surpassing into the territory of humans: empathy and feelings. Do you need a friend when you feel lonely? Have a chat with Replika, your A.I. friend to whom you can tell everything about your life. Or talk to Woebot, a little algorithmic assistant aiming to improve mood. It promises to meaningfully connect with you, to show bits and pieces of empathy while giving you a chance to talk about your troubles and get some counseling back in return. Just as a human psychologist does. Would you rather like to get connected to a human coach instantly? Turn to Ginger!
Chatbots and their place in healthcare
Obviously, there are countless cases where a digital personal assistant or a chatbot could help physicians, nurses, patients or their families. Better organization of patient pathways, medication management, help in emergency situations or with first aid, offering a solution for simpler medical issues: these are all possible situations for chatbots to step in and ease the burden on medical professionals.
Health chatbots are also being used to address specific issues in healthcare. Northwell Health recently launched one to help reduce “no-shows” for colonoscopies, a procedure elemental in colorectal cancer diagnosis. This issue is particularly concerning as 40 percent of less privileged patients don’t follow through with the procedure. The A.I.-based solution is being offered at Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center and Southside Hospital. Northwell says that the personalized chatbot will “encourage patients by addressing misunderstandings and concerns about the exam, delivering information in a responsive, conversational way over email or text”. Researchers will also be able to monitor patient satisfaction, cancellations, no-shows, and successfully completed exams by using the app.
In some cases, health chatbots are also able to connect patients with clinicians for diagnosis or treatment, but that is already one step further down the line. The general idea is that in the future, these talking or texting smart algorithms might become the first contact point for primary care. Patients will not get in touch with physicians or nurses or any medical professional with every one of their health questions but will turn to chatbots first. If the little medical helper cannot comfortably respond to the raised issues, it will transfer the case to a real-life doctor.
As the number of health chatbots multiplies with incredible speed, we decided to list the most promising ones to have a clue about where the health chatbot industry is heading.
Farewell to some, welcome to others
One would think that artificial “beings” like chatbots would be immune to human beings’ eventuality – death. But some of those virtual chatty beings do seem to share a similar fate to their human companions…
In the last couple of years, we’ve had to bid farewell to some prominent health chatbots. Izzy, the handy period tracking and women’s health bot, stopped to exist. Eva, from Spain-based Bots4Health, who could chat about a wide range of health issues with users followed suit. Even some promising tech like Cognitoys with its dinosaur-shaped A.I. companion toys went off the radar.
And as at The Medical Futurist, we envision a future with chatbots playing a key role in people’s health, we cannot help but feel let down by the “demise” of those virtual health companions. The latter had at their core the noble aim to ease the burden on medical professionals while making patients the point of care. Alas, we’ll have to bid farewell to those bots who left us but we are happy to welcome new ones in this venture as well.
Indeed, health chatbots are on the rise and keep attracting investors. A Crunchbase analysis found that VCs have invested more than $800 million in at least 14 known startups which offer some version of a chatbot with health features.
As such, we decided to update the list of our favourite chatbots relevant in 2020. Say hi to your new health buddy!
This New York-based company launched its chatbot with the aim to help ease the life of those involved in the fight against cancer with the information they need.
For cancer patients and cancer survivors, the app empowers them by providing a comprehensive list of diets, exercises, and post-cancer practices, curated by Integrative Medicine experts, so that they don’t need to constantly rely on a doctor. They can, for example, search about the cancer-related risks and benefits of a certain food product.
Should they need the help of a specialist, OneRemission features the ability for users to consult with an online oncologist 24/7.
Basing itself on the latest scientific research, Youper’s A.I. monitors and improves users’ emotional health with quick personalized conversations using psychological techniques. To further help one improve their emotional health, the app features personalized meditations as well as the ability to track mood and monitor emotional health. As users communicate with the chatbot, it will learn more about them and fine-tune the experience in order to fit their needs.
The idea was born out of a real demand: the developer of the app was asked by a doctor to retrieve information quickly and easily about drugs to which breastfeeding mothers may be exposed. The goal was reached: Safedrugbot is a chat messaging service that offers assistant-like support to health professionals, doctors who need appropriate data about the use of drugs during breastfeeding. Moreover, it provides information about the active ingredients present in the medication and alternative medicines.
The British subscription, online medical consultation and health service, Babylon Health, was founded in 2013 and is now valued at more than $2 billion. The company offers A.I. consultation based on personal medical history and common medical knowledge as well as live video consultation with a real doctor whenever a patient needs it.
In the first case, users report the symptoms of their illness to the app, which checks them against a database of diseases using speech recognition, and then offers an appropriate course of action. In the second case, which already goes beyond the usual service of a chatbot, doctors listen and look carefully to diagnose the patient and then write prescriptions or refer to a specialist if required.
The U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) started to use the chatbot for dispensing medical advice for a trial period in 2017. Nowadays, the collaboration is going strong as the company provides NHS patients near London and Birmingham with digital consultations with doctors (over 700,000 conducted so far). It also plans to extend its service to other cities in the U.K. in the future.
The chatbot is basically a “personal nurse” in the color blue, and works on Facebook Messenger, Skype or Kik. “She” can remind patients to take their pills, which might be a handy feature for older patients. You just write the name of the medicine in chat, the number of times a day you must take it and at what time. Then, Florence sends you a message in chat every time you must take the pill.
Moreover, Florence can track the user’s health, for example, body weight, mood or period, thus helping them to reach their goals. The chatbot also has the skills to find the nearest pharmacy or doctor’s office in case you need it.
In 2017, Your.MD was awarded the prestigious Unesco/Netexplo Award for “innovations that can improve society.” The free platform offers actionable health information based on highly accurate sources and lets the user make the best choices for his health. It is basically a symptom checker powered by artificial intelligence. It’s available on iOS, Android, Facebook Messenger, Slack, KIK, Telegram, as well as a browser version.
Moreover, it’s an excellent source of online medical service providers, no matter whether you are looking for pharmacies, test centers, doctors’ office or recommendations for mental health apps.
When we tested it in our symptom checker review, we found it to be a user-friendly service but one that overloads the user with possible conditions.
7. Ada Health
Over 1.5 million people have already tried the health companion app which can assess the user’s health based on the indicated symptoms using its vast, A.I.-based database. We also gave this one a spin in our big symptom checker review and found it to be the one with the most features from those we tested.
Daniel Nathrath, CEO of Ada Health told The Medical Futurist that in the future, “Ada will become a standard diagnostic tool for doctors. That is already the case; users can share their health assessment with their doctor or, in the UK, they can choose to consult with a qualified GP via our Doctor Chat feature. Ada will also become much more of an ongoing health companion, helping patients and doctors to intelligently monitor health data over the long term to enable predictive and proactive care.” Moreover, they have experimented with a voice interface and have trialed using Ada through Amazon Alexa.
The virtual medical assistant named Molly can assess the patient’s symptoms using speech, text, images, and video. As the user wishes, it can use text or speech to communicate. Based on the gathered data as well as the information fed to its smart algorithm, Sensely interprets the user’s symptoms and recommends a diagnosis.
Molly uses the colors of the triage system, well-known in emergency care to decide about the urgency of a case. In Sensely’s symptom triage it means an assessment whether self-care is enough or the patient should turn to a doctor. Moreover, it offers a local service discovery and rich resources for self-care.
9. Buoy Health
Reportedly developed by a team of doctors and computer scientists through the Harvard Innovation Laboratory, the company’s algorithm was trained on clinical data from 18,000 medical papers to mirror the literature referenced by physicians. Examples of data include 5 million patients and approximately 1,700 conditions.
You can check your symptoms online or browse in the vast database of Buoy Health to figure out what might be wrong with your health. The chatbot thoroughly asks you about the details of your medical state and offers you various solutions and actionable steps to take.
Infermedica leverages machine learning technology to power the symptom-checker chatbot, Symptomate. The platform runs online and on mobile phones as a chatbot or voice-based application. It assesses the user’s health status and based on the symptoms, it sets up a possible diagnosis and gives actionable recommendations. In 2017, Infermedica conducted three million diagnostic interviews with patients and the company doubled its monthly recurring revenues in 2018.
GYANT is a health chatbot that asks patients to understand their symptoms and then sends the data to doctors, who provide diagnoses and prescribe medicine in real time. The service is available on Facebook Messenger or Alexa, but the team plans to release it on every messaging platform soon. In addition, they not only provide help for English-speaking patients, but GYANT can speak to users in Spanish, Portuguese or German.
In March 2019, the company reported that they prompted over 785,000 people in Latin America to successfully complete a pre-diabetes screening. Following this, more than 174,000 at-risk people from low-income populations participated in treatment with weekly glucose check at local pharmacies.
12. Cancer Chatbot
It is a helpful resource for cancer patients, caregivers, friends and family on Facebook Messenger. The chatbot offers plenty of resources for patients from chemo tips and tricks to free services. It provides resources for caregivers to ease the burden of caring and making their lives easier. Moreover, it offers friends and families advice what to say and how to help cancer patients best. It’s a sophisticated and well-thought-out solution.
As the healthcare chatbot market is buzzing, no one could collect every one of them as the next day, new ones will appear on the horizon. That also shows what a bright future chatbots have in healthcare and how broad the scope is where they can lend a helping hand to both patients and physicians. Do you know about any exciting health chatbot innovation? Let The Medical Futurist know on its Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn channel!