Online triage tool reduces patient uncertainty about care needed, study shows

The use of an online symptom tracker tool can be used to triage patients and reduce the level of uncertainty they feel about the care they may need, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open.

Researchers examined data from patient encounters via Buoy Health, a free virtual triage chatbot. The chatbot requires users to type in one or more concerns or symptoms, some demographic information and then respond to questions. The chatbot then provides up to three possible explanations with recommended levels of care.

Researchers gathered data for 158,083 encounters, from March 27, 2018, through Dec. 18, 2018. Users were asked for the level of care they were seeking before using the chatbot, and then after using it.

The study shows that the level of care most patients intended to seek before using the chatbot was primary care (47 percent), followed by uncertain (34 percent), urgent (9 percent) and emergency (9 percent).

Patients who were uncertain about the level of care they needed decreased from 34 percent before using the chatbot to 21 percent after.

Chatbot use reduced the urgency of the care requests of 32 percent of patients who were certain of the level of care they wanted.

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