How Kaiser Permanente is using AI to meet patients' needs faster

Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente is using an AI-based chatbot program that helps its patients' navigate their care options. The aim is not to remove humans from care, but to adhere to patients' needs in a way that is easier for them, Seattle Magazine reported July 31. 

The program, which was first piloted in 2022 before rolling out to all Kaiser members in March, allows patients to send a text to the chatbot about a medical problem they are having. 

The chatbot then asks follow-up questions that are "very similar to what would be asked in a physician visit," according to Chris Cable, MD, senior medical director of digital health and access management for Kaiser Permanente Washington.

Based on a patient's response, the tool will provide suggestions on potential conditions and recommended care options, according to the publication. 

"Importantly, this tool doesn't replace the interaction between a patient and physician," Dr. Cable said. "It's built to guide the patient to connect with us to solve their needs in the way that's easiest for them."

When it comes to the progression of AI within the health system, Dr. Cable says the organization sees most potential use cases to fall under alleviating clerical work that can occupy a lot of a physician's day. 

"There's an opportunity in AI to actually give people more time to interact as humans," he said.

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