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September 11, 2019updated 23 Dec 2019 10:24am

NHS users prefer virtual assistants to humans, finds EBO.ai study

New research from EBO.ai, an artificial intelligence (AI) company that works on automating conversations, has revealed that most NHS service users prefer digital messaging over human interaction when communicating with the health service about their appointments.

By Chloe Kent

New research from EBO.ai, an artificial intelligence (AI) company that works on automating conversations, has revealed that most NHS service users prefer digital messaging over human interaction when communicating with the health service about their appointments.

Of the NHS users surveyed, 76% said they would be happy to receive an automated appointment reminder from an AI-powered personal assistant, but only 58% would be happy to be contacted by a human reminding them of their appointment.

Digital messages were seen as the most effective form of reminder, with 85% of patients who missed an appointment in the last year saying they felt a text message would be an effective reminder. Younger people were more receptive to digital messaging than older people, with 70% of 25 to 34-year-olds favouring instant messaging compared to 61% of 35 to 44-year-olds.

Letters were considered to be an ineffective way to remind patients about their appointments, with 29% of patients expressing that they did not wish to be contacted in this way. The figure spiked to 48% in users aged 18 to 24.

The digital preference extended to appointment management, with 41% of patients under the age of 45 stating that they’d prefer to cancel an appointment via a digital message, compared to 37% who would rather make a phone call to their service provider.

EBO.ai CEO Dr Gege Gatt said: “It’s clear that people want to manage their health using the same technology they use to control a huge proportion of their day-to-day lives. Instant and mobile messaging is a convenient and effective way to engage with patients, and our research shows that they prefer digital interactions to human conversations.”

Missed appointments cost the NHS over £216m annually, and the service is now focusing on ways to cut this figure down.

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