Up to 42% of patients miss their doctor’s appointments. They do so for a variety of reasons, including long wait times, lack of finances, and even simple forgetfulness. About 23% of patients will forget to show up unless they are reminded about the appointment. These missed appointments can be costly for patients and doctors alike, but Latin American healthcare providers do not often have the bandwidth to remedy this problem.
Patients in Latin America can sometimes spend a whole day waiting without success to see a doctor for their first appointment. In Chile, 41% of patients can wait up to three months between diagnosis and treatment, which can ultimately lead to more costly treatments for patients whose conditions worsen during the wait time.
Human resources in hospitals in Latin America tend to be poorly distributed meaning that few countries meet international standards for doctor-to-patient ratios, leading to overcrowded clinics, long waiting times, and delayed treatments. Many hospitals have just two receptionists to handle all of their appointments, meaning one receives calls for new bookings and one does confirmations. When hospitals also have online appointments systems, this inefficient process leads to double bookings and missed appointments.
Automating customer services in the healthcare industry can help optimize workflow between different departments, resulting in better outcomes for both hospitals and their patients. Here are a few ways that the healthcare industry can use automation to update customer service and provide care when it is most needed.
How Startups are Automating Latin American Healthcare
Automation can improve the way in which hospitals and healthcare professionals communicate with their patients. For example, AI chatbots are now available to help patients get immediate answers to their queries and even run a “self-diagnosis” to understand the gravity of their symptoms before reaching out to a doctor. Some of these services are even intelligent enough to know when to forward the issue to a human professional.
Some doctors even allow patients to consult them through WhatsApp, saving them from having to make an appointment and a trip to the clinic. In fact, in Brazil, 87% of doctors use WhatsApp to communicate with their patients. Considering 93% of Brazilians use Whatsapp, with the rest of Latin America following close behind, this channel can be an incredibly powerful way to reach patients who do not respond well to traditional calls or emails. Facebook Messenger is another messaging channel that hospitals can use to contact their patients in a way that is comfortable and efficient. Across Latin America, startups have developed chatbots that integrate into these channels, meaning doctors and their receptionists can maintain almost 24/7 contact with their patients without a large customer service department.
One of the reasons why people miss appointments is that they forget. Most of the time, a phone call or message is enough to nudge people to remember their appointments, but with thousands of patients, this process is time-consuming. However, today’s appointment scheduling platforms can be equipped with automated reminders via phone or message that confirm appointments to ensure patients arrive or reschedule. These healthcare virtual assistants, including solutions like Deenty, BrainHi, Doctop24, and others, are expected to reach a value of $314.3M by 2023.
Latin American hospitals have also started adopting telemedicine technology, which involves the use of telecommunications to remotely deliver healthcare services such as health assessments or consultations. Telemedicine has reduced waiting times from 2.5 hours to 18 minutes in the US. Chile’s iMed is one of the startups trying to reduce hospital wait-times through this service. In Latin America, Chile is leading telemedicine adoption with 68% of the country’s hospitals offering this service, followed by Uruguay and Guatemala.
The future of automation in the healthcare industry
Going to the doctor anywhere is never fun but automation can make it easier to book an appointment quickly. Today it is easier than ever to integrate automated solutions that help streamline the way healthcare facilities receive and treat their patients to alleviate pressures caused by high demand and provide services to those who need care.
Humberto Pertuz is the founder and CEO of Vozy, an AI voice communication platform that empowers businesses and customers to connect on any device, any time.