Fans of emoji use will understand! Developments in machine learning might be able to bring artificial intelligence (AI) to the cutting edge of usefulness to humanity, but there’s always going to be one thing missing: emotional intelligence and understanding (EQ). It’s easy to quantify why we need AI in healthcare, with all the benefits it brings, but what’s the reason for needing EQ?

This is essentially a new take on an old problem—that of balancing the quality of care with cost management as optimally as possible.

AI in Healthcare

The Case for EQ

EQ is a vital aspect of communication. Research shows EQ supports better doctor-patient relationships, and in healthcare environments it improves empathy, teamwork, the ability to handle stress, and job satisfaction for workers.

The current focus on patient-centered care and patient engagement are driven by increased choices in products and services available, and the fact that patients now carry a higher percentage of the cost burden. Getting patients to choose the right options for their care now requires them to have a better understanding of the services, which goes hand in hand with an established relationship with their doctor.

Fitting AI in Healthcare into the Picture

The use of AI in healthcare to simulate human cognitive abilities when interpreting complex medical data is aimed at making connections between conditions, treatments and patient outcomes. Most of the major medical institutions have begun using algorithms to identify patterns, which can lead to better results and increased savings for the healthcare economy. The potential exists for AI to create savings of $150 billion annually by 2026, according to Accenture Consulting.

Connecting the Dots

The solution, obviously or not, is to find a way to incorporate EQ into future AI developments. As AI increasingly interfaces with humans, it’s important to find ways for it to develop social and emotional skills. It’s not as if we don’t have the language—the proliferate use of emojis in texting and social media has overflowed into business email communications, with a recent Tenor survey finding 71% of Americans use emojis, stickers or GIFs when they are communicating digitally.

These visual expressions are used for purposes ranging from lightening the mood through to showing support, expressing frustration, anger or empathy. What’s more, 90% of GIF searches revolve around emotion. This shift is a direct result of the mobile lifestyle and the increasingly important role of digital communications.

Bringing the Benefits

Some benefits of developing emotionally-intelligent AI in healthcare include:

  • Data on emoji usage can be mined and incorporated into AI learnings, to help improve the user experience.
  • Enhanced chatbot ability to respond. As the market shifts towards telehealth, more interaction between patients and providers occursonline and via mobile apps. Often, the initial connection is made using a chatbot, and the more closely the bot can mimic human language and intuition, the stronger the chances are of it being well-received. Since chatbots cost a LOT less than humans, they are ideal for performing first-level interactions.
  • Managing human frustrations. By taking the human factor out of initial healthcare communications, AI opens the door for better outcomes than are typically possible when a doctor having a bad day meets a patient having a worse one. An AI with the right responses can either reduce the patient’s frustrations or, at the very least, cope with them without becoming disheartened and retaliating.

With digital healthcare becoming a significant part of the mobile revolution, it’s time we ensure our responses to patients aren’t only efficient and cost-controlled, but that they contain empathy and other elements of emotional intelligence that are vital to the success of the healthcare environment.


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