Chatbots are automated conversation pathways that users can access through text message or email on smartphones or other connected devices. In care management, they can be used to monitor patients' health conditions or recovery from procedures. This article describes nurse care managers' experiences using chatbots in patient care, illustrated through two patient case reviews. Considerations for planning and implementing chatbot technology in care management settings are discussed.
Primary Practice Setting:
This care management service is part of an accountable care organization that serves 582,000 patients in University Hospitals of Cleveland, Ohio. Care management focuses on patients with chronic conditions, recent hospital discharges, and other needs. Care managers comprise a centralized team as well as embedded staff in select primary care practices.
The two patient cases are exemplars from the care management program serving patients recently discharged from the hospital with ongoing chronic conditions that increase risk for readmission. Use of chatbots helped overcome obstacles to conventional care management outreach and resulted in improved outcomes and strong trusting relationships with the care managers.
Implications for Care Management Practice:
Patients who typically do not respond to other types of care manager outreach may respond to text message–based, asynchronous chatbot communication. Interpersonal relationships between care managers and patients can be strengthened by chatbot support. Chatbot technology tracks patients' progress and offers insights to patients and clinicians to facilitate earlier interventions when problems occur. Chatbots make frequent patient contact to collect and provide routine information, allowing care managers to spend more time on high-value interactions that require clinical judgment. Potential concerns about chatbots include effect on labor force, information security, health equity, and oversight of content.