Today, it can seem like almost anything can be done digitally. But as healthcare providers increasingly incorporate technology into their care, it is clear that sometimes there’s no substitute for genuine human connection.

Technology is often the simplest and most efficient way to fulfill a task. Many straightforward interactions—such as appointment reminders, filled prescriptions, or notifications that lab results are available—can be easily achieved through automated messaging, freeing space for human resources to focus on more complex issues.

Of course, current technology can do far more than relay basic facts. Automated clinical chat applications and bots that communicate via text are able to proactively check in with patients, ensuring that they follow post-operative treatment protocols or correctly take their medications. According to a recent study, insufficient care coordination can increase the average cost of chronic disease management by $4,500 over three years, so utilizing technology to manage ongoing health concerns can greatly benefit patients and providers.

But bots have limits, and most people know firsthand how frustrating it can be to navigate an automated system that doesn’t meet their needs. That’s why it’s imperative that any automated system works hand-in-hand with human agents.

“If we’re proactively reaching out to patients with a persona-driven bot chat asking, ‘How are you feeling today? Did you take your medication earlier?’ at some point that bot is going to exhaust itself,” said David Harvey, chief technology officer of Formativ Health. “When that happens, that automated chat needs to convert to a live agent chat as efficiently and seamlessly as possible for the patient’s perspective.”

This incorporation of a human safety net is not a quick fix for the limits of automation; it is an integral part of a holistic system of communication. An effective digital strategy weaves together the nuanced, informed perspective of live agents with technological interactions, knowing that there is no single “right way” to talk to patients.

“Different consumers want to interact with their healthcare organization in different ways. We do have to honor a very wide spectrum of consumers. Thinking that everyone is prepared to chat online with their provider is shortsighted,” Harvey said. “We think about meeting the consumer where they are along their journey of technology adoption. Some are still 100 percent analog and just want to pick up the phone and call. Others are on some part of the journey towards interacting with their providers through technology.”

As patients continue to change how they use technology, a digital interface that seamlessly incorporates technology with live agents provides the flexibility to meet patients where they are today, and where they will be tomorrow.

To learn more about creating a holistic approach to digital technologies, see our white paper “Building the Digital Front Door.”