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As telehealth continues to gain momentum as a vital tool in healthcare, there’s been a surge in the use of artificial intelligence to enhance its capabilities. One of the key advancements in this area is conversation intelligence. By using AI and natural language processing (NLP), conversation intelligence can analyze the content and context of a telehealth call and offer insights or perform tasks based the interaction, opening the door do a slew of new and newly-optimized telehealth workflows, as well as a more consistently high-quality patient and staff experience.

However, it’s important not to let AI overtake real people in the rush to automation. The goal should be empowerment  — not replacement.

Here I take a quick look at the potential of AI in the telehealth space, the importance of a human connection in creating a quality telehealth experience, and how AI can be used to empower human staff, instead of replacing them.

See related: Conversation intelligence in virtual care

How AI can improve telehealth

According to a report from the MIT Technology Review, 7 in 10 healthcare institutions have adopted or are considering adopting AI solutions. As care delivery and administration become more and more costly and complex, AI has emerged as a potential game-changer that could relieve staff burdens, improve care quality and consistency and generally give care teams more time and energy for patients.

Care providers have bought in, too, with over 70% of health-care institutions developing or planning to develop AI application algorithms, according the the MIT Technology Review report.

Some of the most key areas where AI can have an impact in telehealth include:

  • Patient flow optimization: AI can optimize patient flow by predicting appointment demand, automating scheduling and reducing wait times, and improving the overall patient experience.
  • Automation of electronic health records: AI can automate administrative tasks such as scheduling, reminders, and data entry, allowing clinicians to focus on patient care.
  • Predictive analytics: AI algorithms can analyze patient data to predict the likelihood of adverse health events, allowing clinicians to intervene before a problem occurs.
  • Patient data and risk analytics: Remote patient monitoring can be improved through AI, which can detect subtle changes in patient data that could indicate a health issue, allowing clinicians to take appropriate action.
  • Virtual nursing assistants: AI-powered virtual nursing assistants can help patients manage their health, including monitoring medication use and providing reminders for appointments.

The danger: AI without EI

While AI has the potential to improve telehealth, we must not forget the importance of human connection in healthcare. In telehealth, a human touch is crucial to patients’ emotional well-being and trust in the provider. Patients want to feel heard, understood, and supported, and while AI can provide support, it cannot replace the emotional connection that humans provide.

See related: The challenges of telehealth nursing

Empowerment, not replacement

The goal of AI in telehealth should be to empower human staff, not replace them. AI-powered tools can provide real-time feedback that helps staff provide consistently high-quality care, give managers a more complete view of team performance that fuels more tailored, data-backed training and even automate admin work, freeing up staff time to focus more on patients. These benefits can lead to improved patient outcomes and satisfaction, without sidelining staff.

Here are some ways in which AI can empower human staff:

  • Offer feedback and QA on 100% of calls: With the power of conversation intelligence, virtual care teams can not only QA 100% of telehealth calls, but do so as they happen. AI can compare each interaction against clinical best practices to assess whether care teams are meeting quality standards and identify key areas for improvement, leading to a better patient experience and outcomes. AI can also offer real-time feedback on telehealth calls as well as guidance that helps underperforming or inexperienced care team members refine their approach and be more effective and efficient during calls. This not only helps create consistent care delivery, but also gives staff more confidence they’re doing their best work.
  • Fuel comprehensive performance evaluations and training: AI can empower managers with insights about each staff member’s performance across thousands of interactions and allow them to build more tailored, data-backed training, performance evaluations and coaching programs.
  • Automate admin and busywork: AI can analyze calls and automatically perform dull tasks like updating records and writing clinical notes. AI can quickly create smart notes on behalf of care team members, noting key topics like patient symptoms, medical history and previous interventions, saving staff hours of time and energy. AI can even integrate an internal knowledge base and surface appropriate educational materials for staff, saving them from digging through thousands

See related: The challenge of telehealth QA 

Bottom line

AI has the potential to revolutionize telehealth and have a huge impact on call quality and both patient and staff satisfaction. However, it’s crucial to remember the importance of human connection in healthcare and not overlook it with AI.

The goal should be to empower human staff instead of replacing them, using AI to automate routine tasks and provide real-time feedback to improve care quality. By taking this approach, we can harness the power of AI in telehealth while still maintaining the human connection that is essential to patient care.

Waleed Mohsen

Author Waleed Mohsen

Waleed Mohsen is the CEO and founder of Verbal. He has been named a UCSF Rosenman Innovator and has over 10 years of experience working with leaders of hospitals and medical institutions in his business development roles at Siemens and Cisco

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