Build a healthcare chatbot in 30-minutes
—a step-by-step guide

Why build a healthcare chatbot?

Building a fantastic healthcare chatbot can be a labor of love or something you do just to become familiar with the tools and technology. In the quest to become a tech-savvy professional, one of the best ways to learn is by doing. Stop skimming articles, roll up your sleeves, get to it! When it comes to chatbots, new tools make building an autonomous conversational agent quite easy. 

To launch the Toehold Learning Chatbot Challenge, we wanted to show everyone how easy it can be to build your bot. So we made our medication adherence chatbot in about an hour and a half. If you’re interested in learning more about chatbots in healthcare, check out our free guide healthcare, and sign up for the chatbot challenge if, you haven’t already. 

Maybe you’re building a chatbot for the challenge—in hopes of winning the $1200 prize—or just working towards your goal of becoming a tech-savvy problem solver. Either way, this step-by-step explanation of how to build a bot is going to show you how easy it is to look like a pro!

Chatty McMedBot says: "Don't worry, it's easy!"

Want to try out our medication adherence chatbot? It’s simple! (You just have to pretend that you just got out of the hospital). 

Text “Chatbot” to (615)-240-2950

Introduction

A Google search on “building chatbots” will return guides about building a chat-bot in less than 10 minutes. Sure, if you are familiar with the sites and tools, it only takes 10 minutes. To reduce your anxiety, we picked 30 minutes instead of 10 or 9 ½ minutes. The point is, it doesn’t take that much time to get a basic working prototype.

Overview

There are many different vendors and tools you can use to build a simple chatbot. Some of them are a drag-and-drop visual flow tool, like TextIT.in, which we use here. These require no programming skills. Others like Pandorabots, use a scripting language. We chose a quick to learn to for your first chatbot exercise.

After selecting a chatbot tool, you need a way to link your chatbot to a telephone number. For this example, we will utilize Twillo.com. Twillo is cloud communications platform for building SMS, Voice and Messaging applications. They also provide a “trial” account that doesn’t cost you real dollars.

Here are the three steps to creating a functioning chatbot.

Step 1: Set up a Twilio account and “buy” a phone number

Step 2: Set up a TextIT.in account and build a chatbot

Step 3: Link the two together

Step 1 overview:
What you will set up is an account with Twilio. This tool will allow you to buy a phone number for your bot, and then it directs incoming messages to your bot. When your bot processes the logic, it will send the response back through Twilio and then to the client, via SMS.

Step 2 overview
You will create an account on Textit.in. This account hosts the “brains” of your chat-bot. You will create logic flow diagrams (more on that later)

Step 3 overview
You will link the two accounts together. When SMS messages are sent to the phone number, Twilio routes them to your TextIT.in chatbot. Your chatbot follows its conversation flow and sends the message back to Twilio to send to the phone. This back and forth between your phone and the two applications is how you create a simple functioning chatbot.

Added bonus
One great feature on both of these sites is that they both set you up with some free trial credits, so you can play around with the functionality without having to make the upfront investment. Then if you like the features and services, you can upgrade to an official account.

Step 1. Setting up your chatbot accounts

First, let’s set up your Twilio.com account and buy a phone number. You can set up a trial account which gives you $16 of fun money to play around with. There are some limitations to the trial account which we will discuss later.
Sign up for a trial account at https://www.twilio.com/

Click the Sign-Up button

Fill out the form

Click the three bubbles on the left menu under the dashboard.

Next, you need to buy a phone number.
Click on Phone Numbers under SUPER NETWORK

Click on Buy a Number

Enter an Area Code and Search

Select a number you like and Click – BUY

Remember at this point your trial account should have $16 of fun money, so you aren’t paying for it yet. However, if you choose to upgrade to an official account, it will cost a whole $1 to buy a phone number.

Congratulations. You have completed Step 1 – Set up Twilio and purchase a phone number.

Step 2. Details

In this step, you will create an Textit.in account and build your chatbot.
Sign up a trial account at https://textit.in/

Fill out the form

Next, you will set up a flow. A flow is a conversation your chatbot will execute. It takes input and then branches to the action it will perform based on the inputs received.

Click on Create Flow.

You will see three sample flows. Explore those to get an idea of what you will be creating. When you are ready to create your chatbot, select “Create Flow”.

Now you will
• name your chatbot
• Determine what text will get it started
• Set up as a Message or Voice flow

Here is a sample entry:
• This sample chatbot below is named “Chatbot Challenge”
• It will start when it receives the text “Begin”
• This is a “Messaging” based flow.

Click “Create” This should bring you to the workspace where we will be designing the chat-bot.
Here is a sample flow

To build this, Click the Create Message

Fill out the Send Message box

This will create the image below.

Drag the Red Box down to create a Wait for Response box.
Fill in the number of branches and what should make them execute. Here is a Yes/No and Other set.

Create the remain choices. You can loop the OTHER back to the question by dragging the Red Box back to a prior Box.

To test your chatbot within Textit – Click on the

Step 3. Details

Now it is time to link your chatbot to your phone number/
While still in Textit.in, click on the Channel Button on the top right of the screen.

Next, click the green box “Twilio Messaging services”

This is the You will need two pieces of information from your Twilio account to link these two accounts together.
You will copy and paste the Account SID and Auth Token from Twilio’s Dashboard into their corresponding fields in Textit.in. See the image below

Next Click on the phone number you chose when setting up Twilio. After a few seconds it will advance to the next screen.

It will return to the Getting Started screen once they are linked.

Now test your chatbot!
Get out your phone and text the number (615-235-6801 in my case) and the Global Trigger (Begin)

You chose when you first created your flow. This is the word that will initiate the conversation.

Summary

Congratulations! You have now created your first Chatbot in three steps.
1. Create a Twilio account and select a phone number
2. Create a Textit.in account and create a flow.
3. Link the two together by copying the SSI & Auth Token from Twilio to Textit.in

Let us know what you built!

Shoot us an email at: chatbotchallenge@toeholdlearning.com

 

Sign up for the Chatbot Challenge

If you haven’t already, sign up for the Toehold Learning Chatbot Challenge to compete against other facilities and win prizes. Can you build the best healthcare chatbot? We think you can!

Are you a tech-savvy problem solver in the making?

A membership to Toehold Learning can help you get up to speed quickly and easily with the cutting-edge technologies shaking up the healthcare industry.

Author: John Ulett

John Ulett is the VP at Toehold Learning. He has over thirty years experience working with innovations in software technology, and eighteen spent in the healthcare industry. John’s experience provide him a unique perspective on the challenges of integrating new technologies into the framework of existing healthcare technologies.

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