Can Chatbots Improve Health Equity? Let’s Ask One

DGHI’s Eric Green explains how chat technology can expand access to health services, with some help from ChatGPT.

By Alicia Banks

Published April 5, 2023, last updated on April 7, 2023 under Commentary

The emergence of artificial intelligence-fueled chatbots such as ChatGPT has created a flood of predictions about how this technology will change our lives, for better or worse. But Eric Green, Ph.D., an associate professor of global health, says the revolution is already happening in healthcare – and that’s not a bad thing.

Green is the cofounder of a startup called Nivi, Inc., an interactive chat service for health consumers. He also led a Duke Global Health Institute team that created Tess, an SMS-based chatbot tested in Nairobi, Kenya that screens and provides treatment for perinatal depression. He’s seen firsthand how the 24/7 responsiveness of chat tools can give people wider access to help, especially in places where there are few trained specialists.  

“Many people struggle to navigate complex healthcare systems,” Green says. “As the world becomes increasingly digital, chatbots are emerging as a powerful tool to address healthcare access, disparities and health outcomes.”

See Green’s explanation of how chatbots can help dismantle barriers to critical health services and information – with an assist from ChatGPT – in the Quick Take video above.