Chatbot vendors see growing demand for automation in clinician recruitment as health systems begin to use AI more broadly for both administrative and patient-facing tasks.
Potential employees often work long, odd hours as clinicians, and that can pose challenges for health systems looking to recruit more staff. Chatbots—automated computer programs that simulate conversation—allow hospitals to reach out to job candidates and conveniently answer questions, which can streamline the hiring process and expand applicant pools.
“When we look at the world of recruiting, so much of the friction comes from missed connections between recruiters and candidates,” said Parth Bhakta, CEO and co-founder of Vivian Health, a healthcare career marketplace. “What an AI can do is instantly be responsive and answer basic questions about the job, which helps get the candidate to the next step.”
In analyzing data from the 1.7 million clinicians and 330 employers that use its platform, Vivian Health found clinicians were twice as likely to see the hiring process through if a recruiter responded to them within six minutes, Bhakta said.
Vivian Health began piloting its AI chatbot program in January with a small handful of staffing agencies. The company is testing out the technology's effectiveness at bringing in a larger number of clinicians, and enabling quicker communication between job candidates and recruiters, according to Bhakta.
While recruiters may have more candidates to sift through as a result of the chatbot's sourcing, the whole hiring process will hopefully go faster with less work for recruiters around drawing in potential employees, he added.
Franciscan Health started using a pop-up chatbot application in early 2023 to help individuals visiting the Indianapolis-based health system's career site. More than 39,000 job candidates have interacted with the AI chatbot, and 5,119 have applied for positions with the health system, said Ellen Page, director of talent acquisition at Franciscan Health.
Of those who applied through the chatbot, Franciscan Health has hired 971. In total, the system hired 5,100 employees last year, an all-time high and 400 more than in 2022.
“Anything that we can automate helps the recruiters and hiring managers move faster through the process,” Page said. “It's all about speed right now.”
However, there is still an element of the human touch, as recruiters have more time to communicate and build relationships with job candidates, she said.
Plus, potential employees are able to find job opportunities more quickly, Page said.
“We realized that a lot of people are applying on their lunch hour or a break and really don't have time to go and search for jobs,” Page said. “So if they type in, ‘Find me a nursing job in Indianapolis,’ the chatbot then presents those jobs and they can just click on them and then go right to the application process. It's a big time saver for the candidate.”
According to user reviews, nearly 90% of individuals who have interacted with the chatbot are happy with the effectiveness and accessibility of the technology, Page said.
Franciscan Health is looking to improve the experience. Each month, a team reviews the chatbot's software to ensure it gives the best possible responses to applicants' questions. Page said the health system is also planning upgrades, based on user feedback, that will allow job candidates to submit their applications and one-way interview videos through the chatbot.
The benefits of the technology have far outweighed the costs, which were minimal as the chatbot was a small add-on to Franciscan Health’s existing contract with the human resources technology platform Phenom, she said. Page did not disclose details on the costs of that addition.
Bill Venteicher, senior director of product marketing at Phenom, said dozens of health systems working with the company are using chatbots to modernize their hiring processes.
"Many of our customers will complement their career site with a chatbot and a candidate relationship management system, which is the go between for a recruiter to be able to engage with candidates," Venteicher said.
Paradox, a company that uses conversational AI to automate recruitment interactions, has seen its healthcare clients more than triple since 2020.
Houston Methodist Hospital has used Paradox's conversational AI to reach job candidates through a variety of channels, including text and email outreach, social media and website landing pages.
One feature of the hospital’s Methodist Interactive Assistant is its ability to automatically schedule time for potential employees to connect with recruiters about job opportunities, said Carlos Fernandez, director of talent acquisition at the health system. This makes scheduling interviews less daunting amid candidates’ limited availability and differing time zones.
“The goal is to connect with candidates at all hours of the day, and ultimately to be able to connect them with either a recruiter or hiring manager,” Fernandez said.
Houston Methodist attributes between 400 and 500 of its annual new hires to the chatbot, which it launched in 2018. Most of these new employees are registered nurses, which are the most competitive roles to hire for, Fernandez said. On average, the system hires between 7,100 and 7,600 employees every year.
Recently, the system expanded its employee referral program, allowing staff to recommend certain opportunities to candidates using text codes. With those codes, individuals are linked straight to the health system's chatbot to discuss job openings.
“We're also assessing what's called candidate care, where if you're not interested in applying or talking to a recruiter just yet, but you want to learn more about our total rewards or benefits, we can provide information on that,” Fernandez said.
Though the chatbot has been a successful strategy for Houston Methodist, it is still only a supplement to the system’s other recruitment efforts, which include on-site events to meet with job candidates.
“By no means is it a silver bullet to our outreach efforts,” Fernandez said.