Konstantin Kalinin
Konstantin Kalinin
Head of Content
August 16, 2023

Imagine this: It’s 2 am, and you’re wide awake, feeling unwell. The doctor’s office is closed, and your symptoms aren’t severe enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room. What do you do?

This was the predicament Sarah, a 30-year-old graphic designer from Sydney, faced. She had been feeling under the weather for a few days, but it wasn’t until this sleepless night that she decided to seek help. Instead of waiting hours in an ER or for her GP’s office to open, Sarah turned to an unlikely source for medical advice – a chatbot.

Sarah’s experience with a medical chatbot was much more than she’d bargained for. Not only did the chatbot provide immediate, specific, and accurate information, but it also allowed her to express her concerns without judgment, no matter the hour. The chatbot’s empathetic responses and ability to guide her through a series of health-related questions left Sarah feeling heard, understood, and, most importantly, reassured.

In our increasingly digital world, Sarah’s story is becoming less of an exception and more of a norm. Medical chatbots are revolutionizing how we interact with healthcare, providing round-the-clock support, reducing errors, and enhancing patient-physician relationships. But how do these AI-powered platforms come to life? And what goes into developing a chatbot that can deliver such a human-like, empathetic interaction?

Join us as we delve into the fascinating world of medical chatbot development, exploring how they’re transforming healthcare, one patient interaction at a time.

Table of Contents:

  1. The Advent of Medical Chatbots
  2. The Impact of Healthcare Chatbots
  3. Navigating HIPAA Compliance
  4. Addressing Bot Hallucinations
  5. Platform Recommendations
  6. Proper Redirection to Human Operators
  7. Top Medical Chatbots
  8. Ready to Build Your Medical Chatbot?

Top Takeaways:

  • Medical chatbots provide 24/7 support, offering immediate, non-judgmental medical advice, thus revolutionizing patient-doctor interactions.
  • Compliance with HIPAA is a critical requirement when developing medical chatbots. You can ensure HIPAA adherence by anonymizing PHI, entering a BAA agreement with vendors, or self-hosting language models. Each method has pros and cons and requires careful consideration, significant resources, and technical expertise.
  • Successfully mitigating chatbot hallucinations requires strategic use of verified external databases for context-appropriate responses, leveraging NLP semantic search techniques to ensure accuracy.

The Advent of Medical Chatbots: A New Era in Healthcare

When it comes to redefining the future of healthcare, the time is ripe for innovative digital solutions. In 2023, propelled by technological advancements, there’s an inspiring momentum in medical automation, particularly with medical chatbots, as they become essential tools in reimagining healthcare.

From handling patient queries to appointment scheduling, medical chatbots are not mere add-ons but essential tools in modern healthcare management.

Driven by the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI), these chatbots are more than just digital receptionists; they’re sophisticated administrative partners. Investment in healthcare AI, which powers not only telemedicine and remote patient monitoring (RPM) but also the transformative chatbots mentioned earlier, has seen exponential growth, and there’s no sign of this trend slowing down.

Fueled by such innovations, the global artificial intelligence in the healthcare market reached USD 15.4 billion in 2022, with a projected compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 37.5% from 2023 to 2030.

The Impact of Healthcare Chatbots: Promising Changes and Practical Applications

Imagine the administrative workload of hospitals reduced by up to 73% (according to Insider Intelligence), thanks to intelligent chatbots taking over tasks like reminders, FAQs, and even triaging! That’s not a futuristic dream; it’s a reality many healthcare providers are beginning to embrace. According to a Tebra survey of 500 health care professionals, 10% of healthcare providers already use AI in some form, and half of the remaining 90% plan to use it for data entry, appointment scheduling, or medical research.

But why stop there? Medical chatbots are also breaking barriers in patient engagement. The days of patients waiting on hold or struggling to find the correct information online are fading away. Medical chatbots optimize administrative processes and revolutionize patient experiences, allowing for smoother, more personalized interactions.

Here’s a glimpse of what medical chatbots have managed to achieve:

  • Streamlining Appointments: Forget the endless back-and-forth emails and calls; chatbots can schedule appointments in seconds.
  • 24/7 Patient Support: Whether it’s 2 am or 2 pm, chatbots are always there to answer questions, providing real-time support.
  • Enhancing Patient Engagement: Personalized reminders, follow-ups, and information dissemination have never been so effortless.
  • Cutting Costs: By automating routine tasks, chatbots allow healthcare staff to focus on more critical areas, reducing operational costs.

online medical chatbot

But the journey to medical chatbot excellence is not without challenges. Navigating HIPAA compliance, addressing potential hallucinations, choosing the right platform, and ensuring proper human assistant redirection are complex yet vital aspects of medical chatbot development.

Whether you’re a healthcare provider aiming to enhance patient care or a tech-savvy entrepreneur eyeing the burgeoning healthcare AI market, understanding the dynamics of medical chatbots is essential. It’s not just about riding the wave of digital transformation; it’s about steering the ship toward a brighter, more responsive healthcare landscape. Dive in, and let’s explore the promising world of medical chatbots together.

Navigating HIPAA Compliance

When it comes to the development of medical chatbots, a foundational principle that guides every decision is compliance with the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This crucial U.S. regulation establishes the criteria for managing, using, and storing sensitive healthcare information, including what falls under protected health information (PHI). Specifically, HIPAA refers to the following as PHI:

  • Patient’s Personal Details: Name, address, date of birth, and Social Security number.
  • Medical Information: Health status, including medical or mental health conditions.
  • Healthcare Services: Details about the services the patient has received or is currently receiving.
  • Payment Information: Any information regarding payment that could be used to identify the patient.

HIPAA’s domain doesn’t include employment and educational details or de-identified data, as these cannot be traced back to the individual.

Given the strict regulation, anyone developing these AI assistants handling PHI must be HIPAA-compliant. It’s not an option but a mandatory facet of healthcare app development.

HIPAA-logoPHI anonymization

Navigating this compliance maze might seem daunting, but there are solutions. If your healthcare app requires adherence to HIPAA, a first step could be to implement proven HIPAA best practices such as PHI data stripping through data anonymization.

For instance, services like Amazon Comprehend Medical can detect and assess PHI entities in the clinical text according to HIPAA’s guidelines, such as names, ages, and addresses. With confidence scores to gauge the accuracy of detected entities, you can easily filter this information according to a threshold suitable for your application.

While PHI data is filtered during processing, it can be reintegrated again into the final response as needed. This preserves essential information without exposing sensitive PHI to external endpoints like OpenAI. In doing so, we maintain data integrity and alignment with HIPAA’s strict privacy and security standards.

In essence, this approach ensures that patient data:

  • Is never exposed to external sources
  • Remains securely encrypted within a provider’s cloud environment

redact results

Entering into a BAA agreement

If that does not meet your needs, consider forming a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with vendors like OpenAI. A BAA is a contract that defines both your and the vendor’s obligations in maintaining the confidentiality, integrity, and accessibility of protected health information (PHI). Though you remain accountable for overall PHI protection, the vendor assists in processing or managing PHI in line with regulations. The agreement outlines the allowed uses of PHI, the necessary safeguards, and the process for reporting breaches. By executing a BAA, you foster a formal partnership to manage sensitive data, ensuring technological and legal alignment with HIPAA.

Self-hosted language models

Hosting a ChatGPT model on your own servers is another viable route that allows greater control over patient health information (PHI) security and customization to meet HIPAA compliance requirements. This method ensures PHI never reaches third-party servers, minimizing data breach risks but also bringing considerable complexity. Training, maintaining, and fine-tuning a self-hosted large language model (LLM) require substantial resources and technical expertise.

Fine-tuning refers explicitly to adjusting an existing model to handle specific tasks more effectively, often with domain-specific information. This customization offers the potential for more accurate responses but comes with challenges, including costs for extensive data collection and computation.

A notable risk in this process is the occurrence of hallucinations, where LLMs may generate false or offensive content, necessitating vigilant control measures. Meticulous planning for security measures such as encryption, regular audits, and extensive testing are also crucial, making the process potentially costly and intricate.

Read more on Large Language Models in Healthcare in our blog

Addressing Bot Hallucinations

In AI and medical chatbots, hallucinations refer to instances where an AI model may generate misleading or nonsensical information that fails to correspond to actual facts. These hallucinations can range from minor grammatical mistakes to significant textual inaccuracies.

In medical chatbots, this could translate into incorrect medical advice or baseless health claims—a concern that must be carefully managed and mitigated.

Why do hallucinations occur?

Medical chatbots operate on a complex yet fascinating principle. Think of them as text predictors, predicting the next word in a sentence, much like filling in a blank in a statement. For instance, given the phrase “I went,” the chatbot evaluates what might logically follow, such as “home” or “eating.”

These chatbots generate coherent responses by continuously predicting the next word based on internalized concepts. The AI systems that power these chatbots are generally trained on large amounts of data, often in terabytes, enabling them to generate replies across various topics.

WordPredictorThis process occasionally results in inconsistencies or incorrect information for several reasons. A chatbot might lack the precise information in its training data to answer a question and consequently fabricate a response. It may also draw from fictional or subjective content in its training data, leading to potentially misleading answers.

Another contributing factor is the chatbot’s inability to admit a lack of knowledge, leading it to generate the most probable response, even if incorrect. Recognizing these underlying complexities helps developers and users align chatbots with real-world applications more responsibly.

Consequences of hallucinations

In the world of medical chatbots, the consequences of hallucinations can be significant and severe:

  • Misinformation: Providing incorrect health information can lead to misunderstandings and incorrect self-diagnosis, resulting in potential panic or complacency about a medical condition. Chatbots that provide false information on appointments, insurance coverage, billing, or medical records can lead to missed appointments, financial misunderstandings, or inaccuracies in personal health records.
  • Legal Implications: Non-compliance with medical guidelines or regulations due to hallucinations may expose developers and healthcare providers to legal risks, such as fines, penalties, or lawsuits. These legal actions can result in significant financial burdens, reputational damage, and potential loss of licensure or certification for those involved.
  • Loss of Trust: Frequent hallucinations may erode users’ trust in the technology, hampering its adoption and effectiveness in healthcare settings. If confidence is significantly diminished, patients may avoid using chatbots altogether, missing out on potential benefits and advancements in healthcare delivery and communication. 

Mitigating Chatbot Hallucinations: A Strategic Approach

Addressing hallucinations in medical chatbots calls for strategies that reduce the risk of incorrect or misleading information. One practical approach is to use external databases with augmented knowledge, where the information has been thoroughly vetted by medical experts.

Pulling this verified information into the chatbot system enables the bot to answer questions based on credible and accurate data rather than generating an answer from scratch. This provides the chatbot with contextual information to craft appropriate responses and acts as a safeguard against the generation of erroneous or fabricated content.

Here’s how it works step-by-step:

  1. User Interaction: A user initiates a conversation by asking questions in the chatbot interface.
  2. NLP Application: The chatbot employs NLP semantic search techniques to locate the most pertinent information within a pre-verified database. Semantic search is a method that comprehends the context and intent of a user’s query, enabling it to find information specifically tailored to that request. This approach is analogous to searching for information on Google, providing contextually relevant results beyond mere keyword matching. 
  3. Information Retrieval: Based on the top results, the necessary information is pulled into the GPT prompt, providing the context for a precise response.
  4. Contextualized Response: GPT synthesizes the pulled information and user query to provide an answer grounded in verified data, minimizing the risk of generating incorrect or misleading content.

medical chatbot integration

Addressing hallucinations and ensuring compliance with regulations like HIPAA is paramount in the development of medical chatbots. But what are the tools that can assist in this endeavor?

Platform Recommendations

It is essential to consider chatbot development platforms that facilitate not only robust interaction but also ensure that the data handling is in line with the highest security standards.


In terms of specific recommendations, Vectara stands out as a solid option. Specializing in semantic search, their platform enables ChatGPT-like conversations within the context of your particular data.

They offer features that simplify the complex process of data handling. For example, users can upload data via drag-and-drop functionality or use APIs to input information directly into their database. This effectively streamlines the first three steps in the process, reducing development costs and enabling a quicker launch of the initial iteration of the chatbot.

Vectara-medical-chatbot-developmentVectara’s platform offers valuable services such as the “Summary API,” which generates concise responses based on user queries, and the “Search API,” which displays the raw top search results for further examination.

As an API-first platform, users can use the outputs of either and tailor them using another model like OpenAI’s GPT, ensuring context-appropriate responses.

The Summary API can generate standard responses or be customized; however, adding extra models for customization may impact the chatbot’s responsiveness. What sets Vectara apart is its unwavering commitment to security. Their cloud service provider AWS is known for complying with numerous security standards, including HIPAA. 

Vectara also employs advanced measures to safeguard user information. This includes protecting data during transmission and storage and implementing robust procedures to monitor and review the system for potential misuse. Such a comprehensive approach streamlines the development of efficient medical chatbots and reinforces trust in the system’s integrity and security.


In addition to Vectara, Scale is another excellent option to consider. Their platform is a beacon of efficiency, allowing teams to deploy production-ready GPT applications in just minutes.

With several models to choose from, easy-to-deploy endpoints, and a straightforward setup for databases to store information, Scale offers a comprehensive solution.

Their commitment to HIPAA compliance is indicative of a determined effort to safeguard sensitive patient health information (PHI), making Scale a secure and compliant data platform for AI medical chatbots. 

In both Vectara and Scale’s offerings, the pay-as-you-go model offers a significant advantage, providing flexibility and reducing costs in developing medical chatbots.

scale spellbook for llm apps

Proper Redirection to Human Operators

One of the critical elements in creating a successful medical chatbot is the ability to direct interactions to human assistants when needed. This feature is essential for handling highly specialized or emotional situations and scenarios where the chatbot lacks meaningful context to answer a query.

When faced with a question outside its understanding, a medical bot should admit its limitations and defer to human expertise. This redirection isn’t merely a technological feature; it signifies a steadfast commitment to patient-centered care and safety.

A simple way to redirect appropriately is by using OpenAI’s system prompt. The system prompt comprises an initial set of instructions defining the chatbot conversation’s boundaries. It establishes the rules the assistant must adhere to, topics to avoid, the formatting of responses, and more.

We can explicitly guide the chatbot’s behavior using the system prompt, ensuring it aligns with the desired patient-centered care and safety standards. Here is an example illustrating this concept:


system-prompt-medical-chat-2If we design a scheduling chatbot, users might inquire about medical advice for their specific conditions (like cancerous lesions in our example above). The system prompt can be set up to redirect these queries, ensuring the bot refrains from giving medical advice and instead schedules them with the relevant experts for a proper response. 

We can apply a similar approach if the chatbot lacks the context to answer the question even after applying semantic search. 

Top Medical Chatbots

As the medical world embraces AI, several chatbots have risen to the forefront due to their exceptional features, patient engagement, and accurate information dissemination. Here are some of the leaders in this arena:


Sensely is revolutionizing patient engagement with its AI-driven avatar. This chatbot employs a multi-sensory approach, blending voice and visuals to interact with patients, making the experience more human-like.

Primarily designed to aid patients with chronic conditions, Sensely offers medication reminders, symptom checkers, and general health information. Health management stands as one of Sensely’s core features. Users can tap into trusted healthcare content from esteemed sources like the Mayo Clinic and NHS, ensuring they’re equipped with reliable information.


Image credit: Sensely (all image rights belong to Sensely Inc)


As the world’s premier online symptom checker, Florence is celebrated for its straightforward design and commitment to dispelling health misinformation.

Since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has played a crucial role in providing accurate virus-related information. Users simply input their symptoms, and Florence promptly suggests potential causes and recommended actions.

Through its interactive queries, Florence offers symptom assessment and advice on stress management, proper nutrition, physical activity, and quitting tobacco and e-cigarettes.

Florence medical chatbot example

Image credit: PACT Care BV (all image rights belong to PACT Care BV )

Additionally, the bot aids in medication reminders, body metric tracking, and finding nearby health professionals. Its comprehensive features, combined with an intuitive interface, have made Florence a top choice for many.

Buoy Health

Taking a step beyond traditional symptom checking, Buoy Health employs advanced AI algorithms to conduct a back-and-forth conversation with users, mirroring a real doctor-patient interaction.

Buoy offers a more tailored assessment of potential health issues by understanding the context and diving deep into the symptoms. Buoy Health sets itself apart through its interactive AI approach and prioritizes delivering accurate and up-to-date health information.

Buoy medical chatbot example

Image credit: Buoy Chatbot (all image rights belong to Buoy Health, Inc.)

Recognizing the importance of trustworthy sources, Buoy partners with or references esteemed institutions like the Mayo Clinic and Harvard Medical School, ensuring users receive advice grounded in well-respected medical expertise.

Babylon Health

Pioneering the future of telemedicine, Babylon Health is not just a chatbot but a comprehensive digital health service platform. At its core, Babylon employs a sophisticated AI-driven chatbot that assists users in understanding their symptoms and navigating potential medical concerns.

Beyond its symptom checker capabilities, Babylon provides video consultations with real doctors, giving patients direct access to medical professionals from the comfort of their homes.

In recent years, Babylon Health has expanded its reach and now offers digital health services in several countries worldwide. A standout feature of Babylon is its Healthcheck tool, which provides users with a personalized health report and lifestyle advice, paving the way for proactive health management.

babylon logo

Ready to Build Your Medical Chatbot?

After thoroughly delving into the complexities of HIPAA compliance, tackling the issue of addressing hallucinations in medical chatbots, and exploring various platforms and solutions, it becomes clear that creating a successful medical chatbot is a multifaceted undertaking.

As renowned app developers with a significant presence in Miami and California, we offer a unique blend of technical expertise and a keen understanding of the healthcare domain.

Whether you’re keen on exploring Vectara, Scale, OpenAI, or any other cutting-edge platform or seeking guidance on mitigating risks like hallucinations, we’re here to assist.

Contact us if you need a personalized consultation or are contemplating integrating AI-driven enhancements to your medical chatbot. Let’s co-create solutions that prioritize both innovation and patient care.

Frequently Asked Questions


What is the role of a system prompt in a medical chatbot?

The system prompt ensures the medical chatbot’s behavior aligns with patient-centered care and safety standards. For instance, when users inquire about medical advice, the system prompt can redirect these queries to schedule them with the relevant experts, preventing the chatbot from giving medical advice. 

What are the potential consequences of hallucinations in medical chatbots?

One effective strategy to mitigate hallucinations in medical chatbots is to use external databases with augmented knowledge, where the information has been thoroughly vetted by medical experts. Integrating this verified information into the chatbot system enables the bot to answer questions based on credible and accurate data, reducing the risk of erroneous or fabricated content.

What are the potential consequences of hallucinations in medical chatbots?

The consequences of hallucinations in medical chatbots can be severe, including misinformation in health advice that may lead to misunderstandings or incorrect self-diagnosis. This misinformation can extend to scheduling appointments, insurance coverage, billing, or medical records, leading to significant complications. There are also legal implications, such as non-compliance with medical guidelines or regulations, which can result in fines, penalties, or lawsuits. Frequent hallucinations can erode users’ trust in the technology, potentially reducing its adoption and effectiveness in healthcare settings.

What is the relevance of HIPAA in medical chatbot development?

HIPAA, or the Health Insurance and Portability and Accountability Act, sets the regulatory standards for managing, using, and storing sensitive healthcare information. Any AI assistant handling protected health information (PHI) must comply with HIPAA, making it a critical consideration in medical chatbot development.

What strategies can be employed to navigate HIPAA compliance in medical chatbot development?

Developers can utilize services like Amazon Comprehend Medical for PHI data stripping through data anonymization. Moreover, forming a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with vendors like OpenAI helps manage PHI in line with regulations. Additionally, self-hosting a ChatGPT model enables more control over PHI security.

Konstantin Kalinin

Head of Content
Konstantin has worked with mobile apps since 2005 (pre-iPhone era). Helping startups and Fortune 100 companies deliver innovative apps while wearing multiple hats (consultant, delivery director, mobile agency owner, and app analyst), Konstantin has developed a deep appreciation of mobile and web technologies. He’s happy to share his knowledge with Topflight partners.
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