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Bad-bots, the new charlatans of healthcare

Healthcare providers have many challenges, but if you stick with the mainstream, you can usually still expect a reassuring bedside manner from healthcare professionals; you have to actively seek out charlatans in the 21st Century! However, healthcare professionals are busy and consultations are often hurried. Anything that can help them save time is welcome and, as in many other industries, the healthcare sector is turning to automation.

In healthcare automation is often in the form of software robots (or bots) that can automate certain tasks. Admin bots make appointments, provide access to clinical records, answer billing queries and process payments. Chat-bots can deal with routine ailments, freeing healthcare professionals to deal with more complex ones. Artificial intelligence (AI) will see the field move forward apace with advanced symptom checkers like Babylon Health and there are already a number of healthcare projects based around artificial intelligences like IBM’s Watson and Google’s DeepMind.

However, there is a downside, charlatans may find their way back into mainstream healthcare in the form of automated threats or bad-bots. These bots can be used to gain access to online healthcare systems, either via brute force entry of personal accounts or seeking out and exploiting software vulnerabilities. Once in, the criminals that drive the bad-bots steal valuable data (a full US Medicare record sells for around $500) or perpetrate insurance and payment card fraud.

These bad-bots may not be harming patients by dishing out poor medical advice like the charlatans of old, but their effects can be just as harmful. They impact the availability of healthcare applications, invade privacy and undermine the confidence in what should be a brave new round of automation in the sector which frees healthcare professionals to deal with complex problems.

Fortunately, there are ways to  identify, control and, when necessary, block bots, which are now estimated to be responsible for 46% of all online interactions. Quocirca has written a series of e-books on the problem in conjunction with Distil Networks, a provider of direct bot detection and mitigation technology. The latest e-book in the series, The ultimate guide to how bad-bots affect healthcare can be viewed HERE.

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