Editor’s Note – This piece was collaboratively created by our team here at Incredible Marketing and Angelica Peek. Angelica is an Artificial Intelligence Engineering student at the University of Groningen, Netherlands, and has published works in healthcare, AI, linguistics, digital marketing and machine learning.
What does it mean to be intelligent?
Since before we were able to utter our first words, we have parents beaming phrases like “he/she is so intelligent!” It doesn’t stop there — family, doctors, teachers, school administrators, bosses, partners – everyone is trying to quantify our “intelligence” in one way or another.
But what does intelligence matter? Are you actually intelligent? Is it simply a synonym for smart? What the heck does it exactly mean?
Intelligence is usually defined by an ability to learn and develop autonomously. Sometimes it’s memorization, and other times it’s pattern recognition. And as intelligent beings, we usually “know” when someone has it or not.
If that is true, then what does it mean to be artificially intelligent?
When most of us think of Artificial Intelligence (AI), there are a few specific scenarios that pop into our head; Skynet, machines in the Matrix or IBM’s Watson going toe-to-toe with the greatest trivia minds of our time on Jeopardy.
Most of the time, AI is notoriously the bad guy in pop culture, movies, books, and of course, our own mind.
Take these two franchises that Hollywood can’t seem to stop milking for all their worth: Terminator and The Matrix. Sarah Connor has indoctrinated us into believing machines are not to be trusted, meanwhile, Neo is trying to save us from our AI robot overlords who want to turn humanity into AA batteries.
(Red pill or blue pill?)
If this is your impression of what a world with AI will be like, you are in for quite a surprise. Even as AI becomes a greater part of life through the online experience, it is still regarded as a very opaque, mysterious type of technology that can take in data and spit out answers.
AI is, however, so much more.
It is layered. It is complicated. And it can be unendingly diverse. It is as unique and enigmatic as good old-fashioned human-brand intelligence.
Today’s Artificial Intelligence
Just as all sentient beings have spectrums of intelligence, so do the modern machines we work with today. There are very advanced AIs, and those who are much more rudimentary. In the past decade, a super majority of the AI used in all applications are simple, algorithm-based AIs with the ability to do one task, maybe two – but not multiple.
The technology has been focused on repetition, retrieval, and learning to work within a very specific set of parameters.
The more flashy feats of AI, such as IBM’s Watson — which dominated games chess and Jeopardy — have portrayed a very narrow view of what artificial intelligence is and what it can do.
The type of AI being shown in Watson (or even the Terminator) is what is called artificial general intelligence (AGI). The goal of an AGI is to theoretically be able to learn and/or perform mental tasks that any human would be able to.
When we talk about AI in terms of healthcare marketing, however, we are not talking about AGI, the endeavor to get a robot to reach human-like intelligence.
Well, at least not yet.
(Note: For a great crash-course on machine learning, deep learning, neural networks and all things AI, feel free to read this series of blogs created by those serving our soon-to-be overlord, Watson, at IBM.)
So, if we are not talking about AGIs, what kind of artificial intelligence are we actually talking about?
Machine Learning Algorithms
In today’s healthcare marketing, machine learning algorithms are what drives the talk behind AI. These are the algorithms that help you reach your ideal patient, which helps the perfect patient find you. This is how social channels are targeting you, your patient, and getting you to scroll for just five more minutes.
There are a few different ways that these algorithms can learn with different levels of human intervention and supervision. In the simplest terms, however, machine learning is when a program undergoes extensive training to figure out where the patterns in the data are, and how to best use that information for the goal of the company or person that created it.
Why Are These Algorithms So Important?
Well, they are the driving force behind how you and every other internet user interacts with content online. These algorithms identify patterns, analyze data and, through trial and error, ultimately match the right post or ad to the right potential patient.
Where humans see a sky full of stars, machine learning finds the constellations.
Algorithms can find the most interesting and relevant things for you based on things you search, people you are connected with, the location you are in, what device you are using, and hundreds of other unique identifiers that you likely may never even be able to recognize in yourself.
It is so personal because what is interesting and niche to you is different from every other person on the app or website. They are looking to keep your attention while you scroll for as long as possible.
This is why you may have heard — or even experienced firsthand — how some of these enhanced algorithms in social media apps such as Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, or TikTok can nearly read your mind to bring you the content you want to see on the regular.
AI is not only reserved for the purely digital facets of life anymore, either. It has become ubiquitous in everyday life. Algorithms handle many things, from the traffic lights to the operating line for your bank.
And there is one industry where it is grabbing a huge amount of traction: healthcare.
AI in Healthcare Now
Before we talk about AI specific to the marketing of your practice, it’s important that you fully realize the other ways in which this is being used in the medical industry.
Two major applications of AI are already impacting healthcare. The first great example of AI in the medical industry are medical devices known as Brain-Computer Interfaces (BCIs). One type of BCI is a subcranial electrode connected to a battery under the skin that sends electrical impulses to the brain.
This type of technology has been incredibly helpful for treating the symptoms in hundreds of thousands of people world wide dealing with conditions such as Parkinson’s and epilepsy.
And seconlyu, AI is also on the bleeding edge of improvements in diagnosing patients. One subset of IBM’s Watson is the Health Care Manager. As of 2018, nearly 150,000 patients already had their care plans managed with the assistance of Care Manager. That number has jumped dramatically thanks to AI advancements and the urgency that set in thanks to COVID-19.
Using AI in healthcare has become instrumental in making invisible data visible. The more AI is integrated into the medical field, the more these algorithms will be able to accelerate drug discovery, identify cancer treatments, and match patients with clinical trials — among other things.
Artificial intelligence is helping healthcare professionals in many ways, but what exactly can it do to increase revenue? The short answer is a lot.
How AI is Changing Healthcare Marketing
1. Personalizing the Medical Experience
Patients have more options than ever before, causing them to be more driven to find the most exact fit for their needs. They have grown accustomed to an environment where this is not only possible, but also expected. This begs the question of how it is even possible to meet these exceedingly high standards without the use of magic. Enter AI.
Chatbots started simply, with easy call and response actions, but with the help of machine learning and natural language processing, they have become a tour de force in the realm of personalizing the online experience.
The virtual assistant can address simple questions or scheduling requests the patient may have — saving countless hours of administrative work for your medical practice. It can also guide them to the most relevant information, based on what the patient has expressed the most interest in or most concern about.
For example, brands like Sephora use their chatbot to give beauty advice and offer the best cosmetic products according to their needs. Users can get make-up tips and even “test” cosmetic products by taking a short quiz.
Using virtual assistants as the first line of communication between your practice and the patient allows them to feel engaged and serviced in a way unique to them, without the extra time and manpower used in more traditional ways.
It can be difficult to really get to know your patients in the short amount of time you have with them; their day-to-day activities and needs can provide a lot of context and inform medical advice, but are typically something that providers typically have no access to.
Now with all the data that AI can collect through their online engagement, you can give specifically tailored support and guidance. Additionally, when both patient and provider are on the same page about the requirements for healthcare, both short-term and long-term options, the willingness of the general public to be more active participants in their own wellness expands exponentially.
Algorithms have pattern spotting prowess far beyond that of any human. Not only can AI help facilitate the connection between patient and provider in the present, but it can also look into the future of their care and predict what they may need down the line.
So while the fractured bits of information about someone’s medical history, day-to-day activities, and online engagement may not make a clear image from a provider’s perspective, AI can uncover the hidden picture and help you predict what may be in your patient’s best interest going forward.
So instead of making just a six-month plan for your treatment, you may be able to start making a five-year plan that starts with this simple botox injection and culminates to a non-surgical facelift.
2. Improving the Search Process
Patients can only receive tailored care once they have found your medical practice. So it’s extremely important that the patient can find you online, build a connection with your brand, and determine if you can provide them with the care and results they’re looking for.
The first step in the search process is directing patients to the right information – your practice’s website. We’ve all had that experience where you are trying to find something specific, but none of the words you search are giving you the right answer. Luckily, as natural language processing gets better, those problems are starting to disappear.
Natural language processing is the ability to parse regular speech. So you could ask “where’s the best medspa near me?” instead of the keywords “best medspa Los Angeles.” Being able to dissect and interpret what is being said in natural language has changed the game for search inquiries and search engine optimization (SEO).
AI has allowed the search process to be easy and intuitive.
Data from Google Insights
Data from Google Insights on voice assistants such as Alexa, Siri, or Cortana.
These advancements help potential patients find exactly what they are looking for. However, they also mean your business needs to be up to date on the current search trends and what RankBrain, the name of Google’s algorithm, is looking for in a website. Otherwise, even if you are the perfect fit for a potential patient, they may not be able to find you.
Your website is the key element of your digital marketing campaign. It’s where your patients discover and learn about you and what you provide. It is also a source of knowledge for potential patients to figure out what exactly it is that they are looking for and if your results match their goals.
Through analytics algorithms, AI can turn your website into a conversion machine.
Think of all the analytics that already go into finding what is driving your current conversions: where a person is at, on what device and browser, how they found your website, how long they spent on each page, etc.
Instead of spending the man-power to tackle this data, AI has the capability to streamline this and find what hot topics have potential patients are interested in at your practice.
Once those have been identified, the content can be expanded upon, promoted, and redirected back to your websites and eventually your practice.
Although knowing what gets people to your website in the first place is a good start, we all know it’s the content that will make a prospect convert to a patient.
We know that AI is involved when the search engine’s algorithm scans your content and decides whether or not to promote it during a search, but it’s now able to go one step further. AI also helps in the content creation stage as well and is becoming increasingly better at text recognition and predictive text.
Services such as Grammarly are rigorous about not only the technical parts of copywriting, but also can provide suggestions for word substitutions to fit a more professional tone and also how to ensure that your content speaks to your tarket audience..
Developing this one step further, many companies are pushing out increasingly sophisticated AIs that can write fresh, engaging content that has never been written before. Take for example the AI writing assistant Jasper. The AI behind Jasper allows the program to aggregate information from across the internet to provide original copywriting for ads, social media posts and blogs.
With AI helping the copywriting process along, better content can be churned out at a higher frequency. This equips current and future patients with a wealth of knowledge about you, your practice, and the results you produce, making you a reliable source they can trust — while saving you a lot of time and energy.
(The paragraph above was written by AI… could you even tell the difference?)
3. Changing Patient Behavior
We’ve already talked about how unnervingly accurate the algorithms on social media can be when it comes to knowing what content someone wants to see. While the inner workings of such algorithms are a very closely held industry secret, the platforms themselves gladly encourage advertisers to use the hyper-specific targeting to its fullest extent.
Social media platforms have all the data needed to help you churn out content completely personalized to your potential patients. They do this through tracking. It is less creepy than it sounds and more akin to the analytics data covered earlier. Through understanding timelines, searches, and return rates, and other more specific patient behaviors, AI can follow a patient and lead them back to you. The more exposure a patient has to your practice, the more likely they are to return as well.
Prediction and Retention
In simple terms, predictive models take the data and use it to identify the probability of future conclusions. This can be very useful in determining what actions can improve performance, as well as who is likely to be a returning patient.
One way in which AI runs predictive models is in optimizing advertising spending and targeting in ad campaigns. Artificial intelligence algorithms can process your ad spending and targeting data, look at the results, then adjust according to which actions will drive better performance.
Analysis models also make it possible to predict the odds of a specific prospect becoming a patient. Advanced models can predict aspects such as the quoted price necessary for a sale or even which patients will make more than one purchase. This can help transform your practice from reactive to proactive by ranking prospective patients.
By creating a profile of your target patient, AI can reduce much of the guesswork that often accompanies a marketing campaign. Spending your advertising dollars has never been easier and more lucrative.
AI Is Here To Help
While the decision making process is individual to every patient, AI is helping to demystify what the driving forces behind this are. A medical practice with all this data at their disposal can treat more efficiently, and a patient will feel more understood and valued.
The dawn of artificial intelligence in healthcare is here, and with it comes a wave of change that will drastically improve your medical practice and change the landscape of how you can increase patient engagement, change behavior, and advance personalized medicine.
If you’re not utilizing AI in your practice, you’re already behind. But if you start now, soon you’ll be lightyears ahead of your competitors by the time they realize that AI isn’t the scary concept that we’ve been led to believe.
Want to Learn How AI Can Help Your Practice Grow?
Are you ready to plug in, and succumb to the machines? Okay, maybe you just want to grow your practice a bit more, and be on the cutting edge of digital technology and marketing. Our educators are here to answer any questions you have, anytime, for free. Give us a call at (800) 949-0133 or click below to schedule a one-on-one.