Rise of the Bots in Healthcare


May 12, 2016 Lee Crawford, SVP Engineering, TigerConnect

Today, TigerConnect launched HealthBot, the first platform solution for building chatbots in healthcare. Having spent the last two decades in Silicon Valley, I wanted to shed some light on our approach to chatbots in the context of the broader technology trends we’re experiencing in the consumer sector, the enterprise sector, and our work in healthcare.

Messaging has enjoyed explosive growth over the last several years. More recently, it has been hard to miss the surge of interest in chatbots – the so-called conversational UI delivering through messaging what were formerly standalone, downloadable apps.

Engineers in Silicon Valley are racing to build ‘bots’ or server-side agents that interact with consumers via the various messaging channels. From the myriad “Slackbots” built to foster enterprise collaboration to the Facebook Messenger bot infrastructure, thousands of conversational messaging bots are being launched daily. These platforms are solving real communication challenges, while also establishing a permanent demand for product features. Soon, consumers will automatically expect natural language processors to seamlessly enhance messaging with context-relevant, data-rich feedback.

Naturally, as with all technology, consumers will bring these product expectations to healthcare: “wait, why do I have to call or email my doctor’s office to schedule an appointment?” Equally important, the industry has not seriously considered how chatbots might be used to fix a lot of what’s broken in healthcare.

Until now.

Today, TigerConnect, the developer platform of TigerText, launched a chatbot framework, which we call HealthBot. HealthBot is now available for our external partners. You can read more about our launch here.

This launch has been under development for a few years and recently accelerated based on conversations we’ve been having with the leading EHRs, telemedicine and care coordination companies. For those paying very close attention, we actually soft-demoed our chatbot technology at the 2016 HIMSS Conference with CoffeeBot. This chatbot parsed responses in real time to deliver free coffee to any attendee in any booth in under 10 minutes. Understandably, CoffeeBot became the breakout star of HIMSS 2016.

Underpinning this launch is years of research and development focused on enhancing secure conversations. As the leader in HIPAA-compliant messaging, TigerText has built and deployed hundreds of custom bots to hospitals and clinicians:

  • With AMiON, we built the foundation for a bot that recalls physician schedules.
  • Through TigerFax and TigerPage, bots formed the basis for gateway services that route messages to the correct destinations.
  • By enabling alerts (e.g., critical lab results, pre-discharge alerts), bots have long formed a bridge between EMR platforms and the TigerText ecosystem.

With the launch of HealthBot, our partners can now embed chatbots in any application they are building. Based on feedback from the tens of thousands of clinicians that we work with, it’s clear that doctors are frustrated with the amount of time they spend tethered to their computers, rather than treating patients. And with consumers increasingly demanding conversational user interfaces, the need for technology to be assistive rather than a drag on patient care only increases. Bots are desperately needed to scale the value of chat-based communications.

If you have any feedback on our approach or are considering applying HealthBot to your infrastructure, send us an email at developer@tigertext.com.