The global population is rising and so are the health needs. While healthcare has been becoming increasingly more digitalized, it was the 2020 pandemic that raised the red flags for the need for much faster adoption and agility.
More specifically, healthcare management like any other field relies on the advancement of digital communication. An increasing number of companies and organizations in the healthcare sector start to zero in on more reliable communication platforms to deliver services and solutions in a way that minimizes overhead expenses and offers patients quick and personalized support even in times of crisis. Patients, too, become more and more comfortable using digital communication for more complex and personal issues like healthcare and medicine.
WhatsApp is at the center of these changes.
The Crisis that “Broke the Ice” for WhatsApp in Healthcare
WhatsApp wouldn’t be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about receiving medical services and care… Well, at least not prior to 2020. It’s the pandemic that pushed the healthcare communication shortcomings and needs to the forefront. It put healthcare workers and entire governments under extreme stress as well as put a halt to face-to-face doctor consultations excluding emergencies.
The response needed to be fast and, in many cases, it came in the form of WhatsApp business automation. By 2020, it has been two years since businesses started to leverage the WhatsApp Business API feature. In times of crisis, the feature became the beacon of efficient communication across the entire healthcare sector.
Many countries took advantage of the service to answer questions and share information about the disease as well as the pandemic regulations. Perhaps the most famous case of WhatsApp in healthcare is the multilingual WHO Health Alert solution launched by The World Health Organization in seven languages. It was designed to spread COVID 19 awareness, and share the latest updates, information about symptoms, and precautions to take to avoid contracting the disease.
Governments didn’t shy away from adopting the messaging app solution either. India launched their MyGov Corona Helpdesk to help educate the masses, fight disinformation and bring a sense of structure to the chaos the pandemic created.
Advantages of WhatsApp in Healthcare
So, why WhatsApp? Why is it getting so much traction across all industries, healthcare included? What are the advantages it brings to the communication table?
Some of the main advantages include:
- Comfort: WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in the world with whopping 2 billion users. It allows health organizations to connect with their patients where they feel comfortable.
- Encryption: WhatsApp communication is encrypted making the channel a safe place to share sensitive data such as medical information.
- Automation: WhatsApp API allows for chatbot automation meaning it offers an organizational safety net when human staff may not be sufficient to deal with patient queries.
- Patience and lack of judgment: Chatbots being software are impartial, trained to be polite, and lack any form of judgment which might be a stress point for many patients.
- Personalized attention: Each WhatsApp account is unique which makes personalizing one-on-one experiences easy across extended periods of time.
WhatsApp Business API for the Healthcare Sector
The Healthcare sector is, in general, considerably slow in embracing new technologies. However, when it comes to WhatsApp the adoption is spreading faster than ever.
Well, it’s quick, cost-effective, and applicable across a huge variety of use cases.
Efficiently scheduling and managing appointments is pivotal and nightmarish for any business. Add the sensitive and stressful nature of medical care and you have disaster brewing.
One of the best ways to leverage a WhatsApp chatbot is in the scheduling stage of patient interaction. A booking bot allows patients to book appointments, check on upcoming appointments, cancel or reschedule the appointments, and even answer any questions or doubts they might have about the procedure in question.
All that without blocking your phone lines for minutes on end and keeping your staff from attending the patients that are on the premises already.
Did you know that healthcare systems lose nearly $150 billion each year because of missed appointments? Appointment no-shows waste both time and money while preventing other patients from getting the care they need. Hence, having a system that can automatically messages patients on a channel they check on a daily basis with a reminder is critical.
By implementing WhatsApp Business API solutions, healthcare centers and organizations can send automated reminders with relatively little cost and effort. It not only ensures the patients are more likely to read the message but also do the responsible thing and cancel when they cannot come simply because it is easy to do so.
Access to Patient Health Records
It’s difficult for healthcare specialists to effectively determine a patient’s condition without access to their medical history. Hence being able to access patient records is incremental to their work.
In this case, integrating WhatsApp Business API with third-party tools can help on both ends of the spectrum. For example, a bot can enable your staff to pull up files and relevant patient information on the go. Or, the patients can use a chatbot to upload relevant data and history prior to their appointment.
Quick Resolutions to Medical Queries and FAQs
More often than not, medical questions are urgent and can’t be exactly postponed for later. A combination of chatbot and live support can help you provide quick resolutions to patient queries, regardless of the time of the day and location.
For example, a WhatsApp bot can easily answer frequently asked questions. Though in case the patient query is more complex, the bot can simply assess the query, collect data and forward it to a relevant medical professional for resolution.
This way, you can share medical advice and other essential information about your health organization with patients at a moment’s notice. It will help you minimize resolution time in comparison to phone or email as well as lighten the workload for your staff and keep your overhead low.
Lab Results Notifications
Another great application for WhatsApp API is sharing lab reports and communicating results with your patients.
Firstly, people don’t check their email as frequently and as instantly as they react to messaging app notifications. Secondly, sharing this type of information in a conversational setting enables you to offer guidance on following steps instantly, leaving your patients very little time and space for doubt or error.
For example, a patient can see their COVID-19 test result and download the necessary paper instantly, instead of having to log into a secure portal on a desktop to get the PDF. It’s easy and straightforward.
Or, imagine a scenario where a patient receives blood test results. Based on those results, the chatbot can immediately offer to book an appointment with the right type of doctor and/or share relevant content (e.g. about lifestyle changes or diet tips), thus creating a more wholesome experience.
Symptom Evaluation & Consulting
We are not always sure whether or not they need to see a doctor. Other times, that visit to the doctor is so short you are not even sure why you went in the first place.
A WhatsApp chatbot can be used to provide automated symptom evaluation. By answering a series of questions, the bot can either direct patients to the right professional, offer basic advice, or even follow up with the patient in a couple of days to see if the symptoms persevere.
Alternatively, the chatbot can simply gather the symptom information and then hand over the conversation to a medical professional who can provide remote assessment and advice the patient about the next steps.
Another great use of WhatsApp in healthcare is managing patient prescriptions. You can use WhatsApp API to send:
- Prescription slips
- Updates and changes to existing prescriptions
- Reminders to take prescribed medication
- Reminders when the patient is getting low on the medication
- Feedback requests to assess side effects
Did you know message-based therapy is showing quite the results? For instance, a study published in the Journal of Technology in Behavioral Science on the effects of messaging therapy on anxiety and depression reported that 84% of participants with elevated depression and 65% of participants with elevated anxiety experienced significant symptom reduction. They reported significantly less work missed as well as less impairment at work and other activities.
While messaging might not be the absolute substitute for face-to-face therapy, it’s significantly more cost-effective and accessible. You can use WhatsApp to provide mental health counseling sessions for outpatients, patients who live far away, or patients who cannot afford a classic form of therapy for financial reasons.
Experts from a variety of organizations often come together to conduct a study of similar disorders and diseases.
WhatsApp can help researchers conduct trials as well as suggest alternative treatment procedures by not only managing the participants but also the data.
The information collected via WhatsApp can be used to track the pattern of diseases or even possible treatment processes
Health Insurance Guidance
Dealing with health insurance is, for many, an absolute nightmare. It’s confusing, hard to understand, messy, and takes just about forever to process.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can use WhatsApp automation to streamline the entire process from answering the FAQs to collecting necessary documentation and processing the claims.
For example, Plum, an employee benefits platform that provides group medical cover for businesses in India, used WhatsApp to completely automate their claim process with a chatbot.
Thanks to this, they managed to slash their claim processing time by an incredible 60%!
Payments & Receipts
Another great use of WhatsApp is to simply process the payments for your services.
While you can’t use the messaging app to promote and sell medicinal drugs or devices, you are able to process payments for services provided as well as send out purchase receipts or outstanding invoices.
Last but not least there’s patient feedback. Healthcare like every other industry is becoming reliant on patient reviews to bring in business.
A WhatsApp Automation solution addresses this issue on two fronts:
- It makes submitting feedback incredibly easy—as easy as replying to a message—thus allowing you to get the information necessary to improve your service first-hand
- It makes getting patients to actually review your business much easier which means your access to fresh satisfaction testimonies is not likely to end.
WhatsApp’s Business and Commerce Policies for Healthcare
In general, WhatsApp is quite strict about business on the app. When it comes to healthcare, it’s doubly so since healthcare is a more vulnerable domain. So, before you launch into WhatsApp automation, be sure to review the strict commerce policies and guidelines!
Here is a summary to help you avoid violations and make the most of it:
- If your business’ primary function is to sell pharmaceutical drugs, you are PROHIBITED from using WhatsApp Business app or the API;
- Pharmacies and businesses CAN NOT promote or sell medical devices, drugs, and other medical goods;
- Pharmacies and businesses are not allowed to send communication that does not concern the “administration of medical services;”
However, there are some exceptions. For example, pharmacies can conduct business on WhatsApp provided that:
- They have “separate clinical laboratory or patient care services;”
- Their WhatsApp Business Account specifies the medical service (e.g., clinic, laboratory, vaccines, diagnosis center, etc);
- Their business website clearly states they administer vaccination and/or any kind of medical testing.
However, overall, WhatsApp will not let you sell supplements of any kind within the app catalog, message threads, business profiles, and message templates. So, to make sure you get those template notifications right check out our detailed guide to creating great WhatsApp message templates.
To Wrap Things Up…
All in all, WhatsApp automation offers quite unlimited possibilities to streamline healthcare services for healthcare professionals as well as across the entire patient journey.
There’s a lot to consider regarding WhatsApp's accessibility and cost-efficiency as well as the enablement of personalized services on a large scale.
Curious to know more? Check out Landbot’s no-code WhatsApp API solution.