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NHS users want to talk to AI virtual assistants instead of humans, according to new research from EBO.ai

September 11, 2019

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NHS users want to talk to AI virtual assistants instead of humans, according to new research from EBO.ai

Patients reject human conversations in favour of AI interactions.

New research from EBO.ai, the artificial intelligence company optimising customer interactions, has revealed that the majority of NHS users prefer using digital messaging to communicate with the health service about their appointments.

Over three quarters (76%) of NHS users said that they’d be happy to receive an automated reminder from an AI-powered virtual assistant, compared to just 58% who would be happy to be contacted by a human. According to NHS England, missed appointments cost the NHS over £216m each year, as such it’s vital that steps are taken to minimise this cost and ensure GP hours are not wasted.

The research, conducted in partnership with YouGov, showed a general trend towards technology-based communication with the NHS. The figures show that patients, just like most people in society, prefer the convenience and non-intrusive nature of digital messaging channels compared with phone calls and human conversations.

Digital messages were seen as the most effective forms of reminder, as instant messaging becomes more and more central in day to day life. 85% of those who missed an appointment in the last year said they felt a text message it would be an effective reminder, the highest response for any type of communication. Nearly three quarters (70%) of 25-34 year olds felt that an instant message was the most effective way to receive a reminder, whilst nearly two thirds (61%) of 35-44 year olds felt the same.

Over a quarter (29%) felt that a letter was an ineffective way to remind patients about their appointments, with this figure spiking among 18-24 year olds at 48%, showing that the younger generations are leading the move away from more old-fashioned methods of reminder.

This also extends to managing appointments, with more patients under 45 (41%) stating that they’d prefer to cancel an appointment via a digital message, compared with 37% who’d rather make a phone call to the hospital or service provider.

Dr. Gege Gatt, CEO of EBO.ai, comments on the findings:

“It’s clear that people want to manage their health using the same technology they use to control a huge proportion of their day to day lives. Instant and mobile messaging is a convenient and effective way to engage with patients, and our research shows that they prefer digital interactions to human conversations.”

“The technology is available now to transform the way the NHS interacts with patients, and these digital forms of communications can be automated using Artificial Intelligence. Sophisticated virtual assistants can manage instant message appointment reminders, appointment amendments and cancellations, and can also deliver detailed insights into patient needs and behaviours.

"NHS trusts up and down the country should be leveraging AI to take administrative burden away from clinical staff and deliver a more satisfactory experience for patients. Not only will this help to improve overall patient care, it will also result in significant cost savings.”

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