How a chatbot could help people take their medication

Does your medical record note allergies to medicines correctly? Are you sure?


Over one billion people using Facebook Messenger, spending on average of 50 minutes of their day engaging with Facebook. It’s clear that Messenger is one of the main places where consumers want to communicate and this provides an incredible opportunity to deliver unique experiences to a captive audience and bots are a great way to accomplish this. While it’s easy to find great use cases in most verticals, this post will focus on healthcare, specifically medication adherence.

Here’s a definition of medication adherence: Adherence to, or compliance with, a medication regimen is generally defined as the extent to which a person takes medications as prescribed by their healthcare providers.

There’s been a big investment in medication adherence and there’s good reasons. According to a World Health Organization report (and countless other sources) available in print only “adherence to long-term therapy for chronic illnesses in developed countries averages 50%” and “removing barriers to adherence must become a central component of efforts to improve population health worldwide.”

Apps are one answer, but while effective they require installation, that the user become familiar with a new tool and switches contexts to use them. What if the barrier of an application could be removed, onboarding could be simplified, you could interact with something you already are intimately comfortable with and even remove the need to reveal your identity? Facebook Messenger bots are an ideal solution and there’s one billion people using Messenger that would instantly have access to a tool that could improve their health and communication with doctors.

The core of medication adherence is remembering to take your medication at the right times in the right dosages and then doing it consistently.

Let’s look at how easy it would be for a Type II diabetes patient or caregiver to get started with a Messenger bot. The patient could scan a profile code from Messenger or do a search and immediately start talking to an adherence bot. There’s no need at this point to set up another account or even reveal your identity because the bot will just use the number Facebook has assigned to you in Messenger. The bot would instruct the patient how to add their first medication and give details about dosing amounts and times and that’s it. The patient will immediately start getting friendly reminders at the times they specified and be on the road to better health. This can literally be completed in under two minutes.

But there’s much more the bot can do. In addition to giving you encouragement and rewards for adherence the bot could also collect other health information in a single tap using a simple conversational interface. For example, for diabetic treatment, the bot could ask if you’ve had any symptoms during that day. For pain medication, the bot could collect your pain level visually using Wong-Baker FACES that work like emojis. For psychiatric medications, the bot could collect information about your mood.

The bot could also have the ability to collect other information like blood sugar levels or notes to discuss with their healthcare provider. Before the patient’s next appointment, the provider could request a report from the bot with charts that track adherence, mental or physical well-being, blood sugar readings (if applicable) and notes making it much easier to remember details to discuss during the appointment.

The end result will foster a more comprehensive dialog between the patient and healthcare provider. In the future, Messenger could also provide a channel to directly communicate with healthcare providers or pharmacists (e.g., not just the chatbot but the humans at the clinic or hospital). This will require integration with the doctor or hospital system’s communication platform but is possible with the current Messenger architecture and the account linking feature.

Here’s a few examples of bots for adherence plans that collect medication specific details.

Example adherence bot for diabetes medication:

Example adherence bot for pain medication:

Medication adherence is just one example of how businesses can effectively use bots to deliver meaningful value to consumers on their terms and in their preferred channel. With the number of Facebook Messenger users topping one billion and Facebook investing in enhancing the platform, Messenger is a front-runner for bot innovation. Many business – and medical – use cases can be solved eloquently with bots.

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