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Healthcare chatbots

Broaden your digital marketing strategy and strengthen your patient centric approach using pharma chatbots

The Alcimed Healthcare team has been exploring the potential of chatbots in healthcare even before the rise of interest on the topic and supports industry players in their projects related to the development, implementation and assessment of AI chatbots.

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  • What are chatbots in healthcare industry and what are they used for?

A healthcare chatbot is a computer program that uses natural language processing (NLP) and artificial intelligence (AI) to simulate conversation with a user to provide healthcare-related information and assistance.

Although healthcare chatbot have been the subject of much interest lately, they are a 50-year-old innovation that has improved with the development of artificial intelligence technologies. From ELIZA in 1966, developed to imitate a psychotherapist, to current ones, this type of bot has many applications in healthcare. And the range of uses is predicted to continue increasing in the coming years.

Pharma chatbots provide basic information, from symptoms recognition and definition to even diagnosis and information on treatments (mode of action, side effects, reminders, etc.). Some can even share more advanced medical advice, even addressing medication management, providing mental healthcare consultations, and nutrition advices.

Healthcare chatbots services are essential to streamline healthcare services as they:

  • Improve access to healthcare information: healthcare chatbots provide patients with 24/7 access to healthcare information while keeping their anonymity, allowing patients to bring forward sensitive subjects.
  • Adapt to personalized health care: pharma chatbots provide tailored recommendations and advice to patients based on their unique health history and learn through interactions with patients to better answer their healthcare questions and needs.
  • Increase patient engagement: by providing users with a more interactive and engaging healthcare experience, chatbots increase patients’ education, awareness, and engagement in their disease and care, placing them as an actor in their medical journey.
  • Reduce workload for healthcare providers: by handling routine tasks, such as appointment scheduling and prescription refills, but also answering frequently asked questions, chatbots act as virtual healthcare assistants, helping reduce the workload for healthcare providers, allowing them to focus on their core added value.
  • Save healthcare cost: by automating routine tasks and providing patients with self-care options, pharma chatbots help reduce healthcare costs.
  • Improve patient healthcare outcomes: by providing patients with accurate and reliable healthcare information and support, chatbots help improve patient outcomes.
  • Gather better healthcare data: chatbots collect and analyze healthcare data in real-time, providing healthcare providers with valuable insights into patient health trends and needs.
  • In addition to supporting patients, HCPs, and providers, healthcare chatbots services can provide pharmaceutical companies a way to engage with patients and healthcare providers, improve customer service and support, and enhance their marketing and promotion efforts. By leveraging the capabilities of chatbots, pharmaceutical companies can improve their brand image and increase their revenue.

As chatbot technology continues to evolve, we can expect to see more innovative applications of this technology in healthcare.

  • What are the challenges related to chatbots in healthcare industry?

Healthcare chatbots are an answer to multiple issues and struggles in the healthcare system; the lack of engagement from patients, HCP’s time stress, and “beyond the pill” and RWE initiatives of pharmaceutical companies. Leveraging chatbots in healthcare has the potential to address these challenges. Nonetheless, many of them remain to be tackled, in the technology, its acceptance, its regulation, and its contents.

Even if chatbots technology is not new and have greatly improved in the past years, AI and NLP technologies are still lacking in complex or emotional matters. As they rely on pre-programmed responses and algorithms to generate answers, they do not have the full ability to understand complex medical issues and provide accurate advice in every context, especially in emergencies. The same goes for situations that require empathy and/or emotional support. Chatbots lack the human touch that comes with face-to-face interactions.

What are the most recent technologies and developments for healthcare chatbots to improve their responses on complex medical issues? How to develop the “emotional intelligence” of this type of bot?
As healthcare chatbots answer questions and concerns on specific medical topics instantaneously, 24/7, and to a large population, the content they are providing is key, and needs to be highly accurate and reliable. Inaccurate or misleading information can, in addition to losing credibility and trust, have consequences for users. As healthcare chatbots support patients in their disease management as an assistant, wrong or unclear messages can lead to incorrect diagnoses or treatment decisions. As such, it is critical to ensure their accuracy, reliability, and clarity, from bot development to maintenance. Indeed, chatbots' AI and NLP software needs to be trained with up-to-date medical data, leading to important maintenance costs and content surveillance.

How to assess the information provided by a healthcare chatbot? What are the solutions to keep the content up to date and ensure a health monitoring?
Another challenge is ensuring that healthcare chatbots are designed with user privacy and security in mind. Healthcare data is highly sensitive, and as there is often the risk of data breaches or unauthorized access, it is critical to ensure appropriate safeguards to protect user data. It is why healthcare chatbots services must comply with regulatory guidelines, such as FDA guidelines for medical devices, which can make the development process more complex and time-consuming.

What are the latest regulatory requirements? What are the necessary certification to be identified as a trustworthy healthcare chatbot?
These previous challenges lead to adoption and acceptance difficulties from healthcare professionals, statutory healthcare insurance, and other providers. In addition to the natural resistance to change towards innovation, the uncertainty in the content provided, and the security around the application, pharma chatbots still must gain HCPs' trust. Until then, their wide adoption and utilization will be limited. Thus, it is essential to integrate HCP and healthcare providers early in the development of such solutions.

How to engage HCP in the development of healthcare chatbots? How to ensure acceptance of chatbots in the healthcare industry?

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The Alcimed’s Healthcare team is supporting its clients on many issues related to digital and AI healthcare solutions, and the development and implementation of chatbots in human health, in animal health, with hospitals, and medical practices.

Our projects with chatbots are conducted for startups and incubators looking to develop and launch their solution, as well as for pharmaceutical companies wanting to implement healthcare chatbots and improve their brand image and their clinical trials, and for European institutions and research centers.

The diversity of our clients, the topics we cover, the geographic areas and therapeutic areas we explore, and the types of projects we run give us comprehensive and in-depth insight into issues related to chatbots in healthcare.

Our projects cover innovative technologies within the field of AI in healthcare, understanding the current and future impact on pharmaceutical companies’ business, the development of portfolio strategies, the search for partners, and many more!

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We supported one of our clients, a leading pharma player, in identifying what type of data can be generated and collected from healthcare chatbots to improve their Real-World Evidence (RWE) strategy. In addition to providing a conversational agent, our client wanted to see the potential return in terms of data collection they were able and legally authorized to perform. We achieved this by defining digital sources that can be used to generate RWE (conversations and information shared with chatbots) and the usage of such collected data. In a second step, our team analyzed the advantages and limitations of these chatbots in pharma solutions, providing our client with a clear picture of the market on the collection of RWE through chatbots. Alcimed ultimately defined a roadmap to implement a RWE strategy and how healthcare chatbots fit in this approach for our client.
We supported one of our clients, a leading healthcare player, in assessing the need for an integrated AI chatbot for the automatic handling and virtual assistance on specific requests in hospital settings and care. The objective for our client was to find ways to improve the general quality of customer service and enable a 24/7 support platform.

As a first step, Alcimed interviewed key leaders in hospital management across Western Europe to understand their current practices in handling these topics and evaluate the volume of requests. Then, we challenged the idea of an AI chatbot automatically answering queries with their experience and gathering feedback to evaluate the potential of such a solution.
We supported one of our industry clients in understanding the opportunity and market dynamics, as well as the perception of chatbots in healthcare to better shape their offer and solution. We first mapped the market to provide our client with an understanding of the segments with high potential and the competition existing in the market. Then, through exchanges with stakeholders in Pharma, CROs, non-profit CROs, hospitals, and medical device companies, we consolidated the decision of developing an integrated AI chatbot solution and confronted the features of the future chatbot healthcare solution. As the perceived value was high, we identified potential buyers to target first, their exact needs and pain points, which potentially could be translated in new value propositions.

Overall, Alcimed laid out the roadmap and next steps for our client to navigate towards the success of their integrated AI chatbot in healthcare.
We supported one of our clients, a healthcare player, in the definition of the features and content displayed on their AI chatbot. We first identified the trends on the topic and the main challenges in the patient’s journey of the disease for which the healthcare chatbot has been developed. Then, we challenged these findings with patient interviews and focus groups to assess their relevance and confirm the need for a pharma chatbot to answer these pain points. Following the positive feedback and the clear gaps identified in the patient’s journey, we both confirmed the need and relevance of such a solution but also initiated contact with patient associations, laying the groundwork for basic adoption and acquisition after the launch of the application. Building on that success, Alcimed contacted Key Opinion leaders and doctors to constitute an advisory board, helping with the redaction and proofreading of the content, making sure the information answers the identified needs and is up to date and accurate.

Founded in 1993, Alcimed is an innovation and new business consulting firm, specializing in innovation driven sectors: life sciences (healthcare, biotech, agrifood), energy, environment, mobility, chemicals, materials, cosmetics, aeronautics, space and defence.

Our purpose? Helping both private and public decision-makers explore and develop their uncharted territories: new technologies, new offers, new geographies, possible futures, and new ways to innovate.

Located across eight offices around the world (France, Europe, Singapore and the United States), our team is made up of 220 highly-qualified, multicultural and passionate explorers, with a blended science/technology and business culture.

Our dream? To build a team of 1,000 explorers, to design tomorrow's world hand in hand with our clients.


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