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A new study of Botco AI, a HIPAA-compliant conversational marketing platform, surveyed executives from various types of mental and behavioral health institutions and organizations to understand the impact of the pandemic and how it has increased the need for mental health services. Titled “The State of Conversational Automation and Access to Mental Health Services,” the research also focused on how mental health providers are using technology to communicate with current and future patients.
The study’s biggest learning point is that conversational AI (artificial intelligence) is a game-changer for behavioral health care. According to the study, “The social distancing mandates, lockdowns and restrictions of the pandemic have fueled the need for online assistance, virtual appointments and digital interactions to facilitate greater accessibility to mental health services.”
Conversational AI simplifies pathways to treatment: The vast majority of respondents – 89% – said automated chat tools make it easier for patients to access the mental health treatment they need. More than three-quarters (76%) confirmed they used technology for patient coordination and admission, and 61% said their company’s website already uses conversational AI to answer questions from prospects or their families.
“The findings of this study show how important it is for mental health institutions to embrace new technologies to reduce the barriers that prevent millions of Americans from accessing the mental health care they need,” said Anu Shukla, co-founder and executive chairman of Botco AI.
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Increased need for mental health care
While the pandemic disrupted or halted critical personal mental health services, the demand for mental health services actually increased. As a result, 100% of respondents expanded their virtual behavioral support during the pandemic.
About 34% of survey respondents acknowledged that their mental health facility, behavioral health organization, or addiction treatment center increased their online help by 50-75% to help people with mental health problems.
The mental health effects of the pandemic were felt disproportionately with about 41% of respondents believing that the pandemic has made it more difficult for people in general to access mental health care. 55% said the pandemic has made it more difficult for African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Native Americans and LGBTQ+ individuals to access mental health services.
The benefits of conversational AI in behavioral healthcare
“Today, video conferencing capabilities have become an important part of mental health facilities,” says Shukla, “and many treatment centers are starting to use AI and automation for critical functions such as prospect qualification, patient admission, and even the treatment itself.”
For patients, digital interactions, online healthcare services and the use of conversational AI technologies such as chatbots can have many benefits, including:
- Healthcare without geographical borders.
- 24/7 patient support and resources.
- Easily make appointments with therapists and healthcare professionals.
- Tailored responses that transform their patient journey and help improve clinical outcomes.
- A user-friendly, judgment-free environment that eliminates stigma and shame.
- Overcome possible language barriers.
For healthcare providers, using conversational AI to streamline the intake process can play a critical role in the operational, financial and clinical success of medical practices and health systems. Not only does this mean faster throughput and shorter wait times, but it also allows caregivers to use their time to provide better care for their patients, rather than filling out paperwork.
With regard to call automation in particular, Shukla said, “Not only does it help patients and their families get faster, more accurate answers to their most pressing questions, but it can also help verify insurance benefits instantly and it can be connected to the electronic patient health record to ensure higher quality of care.”
Providing on-demand support is critical to improving access to mental health services
Digital channels enable facility discovery: 49% of patients and their families learned about their chosen treatment facilities online using website tools such as chatbots, far more often than through word of mouth (25%), physician recommendations ( 19%), or advertisements (7%).
Chatbots are already popular tools for patients: 61% of respondents said their organizations already had AI conversation tools on their websites to answer questions from potential patients or their families.
AI chat is perfectly positioned to answer frequently asked questions: the most common topics patients and their families discuss before enrolling in treatment are cost (68%), insurance coverage (60%), duration of treatment (46%) , types of treatment available (43%), and payment options (41%). These are all questions that automated chatbots need to answer so that patients get the support they need without requiring additional staff effort.
“The good news is that most mental health institutions are already embracing chatbots and other technologies,” Shukla said, “but based on our findings, the industry as a whole still has some work to do to bring mental health support to those who need it.” , and in particular for minorities.”
In June 2022, Botco AI surveyed approximately 120 executives, including vice presidents, executive directors, facility managers and admissions directors, working at mental health institutions, behavioral health organizations, substance abuse providers and rehabilitation centers.
Read the full report from Botco AI.
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