New digital technology changes offer innovative solutions to improve the patient experience.
At the first signs of illness, where do people turn for advice? Increasingly, patients rely not on their primary care providers but on Google. Internet search engines are a convenient resource to help people better understand their symptoms. But a Google search is not an official diagnosis, and patient uncertainty about online medical advice remains high.
A recent study pointed to a potential alternative to typical web searches. Compared to internet searches of patients' symptoms, a free chatbot uses AI technology to answer patients' medical queries, which has tangible results. Medical marketers need to know about the growth of innovative digital tools, such as health chatbots, and how they can improve patient trust.
The study aimed to determine whether patients' uncertainty about their condition was reduced when they communicated with a free medical chatbot rather than simply reading the first few articles in a web search.
The results indicate that patients found the health chatbot more helpful than a typical web search. Yet a high level of uncertainty isn't the only obstacle patients encounter when they search for their symptoms online.
Using Google as their only consultation might make a minor headache sound like a brain aneurysm as patients browse through increasingly alarming search results. Another major takeaway from comparing chatbots and web searches was a lower perception of urgency. In fact, after consulting the chatbot, 34 percent of users considered their condition less urgent than they did after using a search engine.
Digital tools like chatbots will likely play a more prominent role in healthcare in the next several years. Medical marketers should note that patients who use chatbots are significantly more satisfied with — and less concerned by — the results of their research.
Of course, patients with severe symptoms should consult a licensed healthcare provider to receive a proper diagnosis. Yet, for many, the internet is a beneficial first source of medical information, especially for users with relatively minor symptoms. As patients often seek to determine whether their symptoms are worth visiting their primary care provider, medical websites that integrate patient-centric tools like chatbots can help clear up this confusion.
Patients' growing interest in finding healthcare advice online presents new opportunities for medical marketers ready to embrace innovation. As patients understand their symptoms better, healthcare providers can use strategically-designed websites, empathetic copy, and targeted ads to present practical solutions. Ultimately, digital tools like chatbots have the potential to reduce patient uncertainty, boost user engagement, and increase conversions.