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Reducing Patient Absenteeism Using Conversational AI

By Sofía Garduño | Wed, 11/23/2022 - 10:31

Q: Why is it relevant for health professionals and hospitals to communicate with patients through WhatsApp?

A: Because today more than ever it is imperative to use healthcare resources optimally and not waste any available minute of the healthcare teams' time. Physicians' time and the infrastructure needed to care for patients are limited and costly resources that we as a society cannot afford to waste.

At Cero we have confirmed that by improving communication between patients and hospitals and adapting to patients (and not the other way around), we can make more efficient use of these resources, allowing healthcare professionals to care for more patients and waste less of their teams' available time.      

Q: How does Cero.ai use AI to ensure a good patient experience?

A: We focus on coordinating medical appointments automatically. Over the last year, we have coordinated more than 20 million medical, laboratory and procedure appointments. We do this by communicating in a fluid and natural way with patients, adapting and understanding the way each patient communicates. For this we use an interface capable of processing natural language (NLP) and we communicate with patients through mass channels such as WhatsApp.

For example, we start a conversation by asking the patient if they will attend a doctor’s appointment, to which the patient usually responds, in their words, that they confirm their attendance, cancel their appointment or need to reschedule the appointment. The technology understands the intent of the patient’s message and allows the conversation to continue in a natural way.

Q: How did the digitalization of the health sector caused by the pandemic impact Cero.ai?

A: Cero.ai was born in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. While it is not a solution designed to address a problem caused by the pandemic, it targets the communication issues that existed between hospitals and patients during the crisis. When hospitals need to increase their service provision, they must make operations more efficient to miss fewer appointments and better coordinate patient care. During the pandemic, the implementation of technology and the digitization of certain processes began to make more sense. When hospitals automate, they free their team, allowing them to carry out more complex tasks.

Q: Compared to other Latin American markets, how is the Mexican health industry adopting this solution?

A: The problems we see in Mexico are similar to the rest of Latin America and the world. The number one complaint of patients in their care experience is inadequate response from care coordination teams. We investigated that fewer than one in 20 online complaints cite diagnosis, treatments and healthcare outcomes as unsatisfactory, while more than 19 in 20 dissatisfied patients said inadequate communication and disorganized operations led them to post harsh criticisms.

There is no significant difference between Mexico and other Latin American markets in terms of communication channels, as patients interact with our automated communication system in the same way. However, in Mexico there is a great need to digitize operations within hospitals. In Mexico, it is common to use pencil and paper to track patient records or appointments. This occurs even in large hospitals that attend up to 400 patients a day. The country's technological infrastructure needs improvement, but some hospitals are more sophisticated than others.

Q: What strategies is Cero implementing to popularize its product in the Mexican market?

A: We work with care providers that are looking to reduce their patient no-shows and use technology. Cero.ai advocates for the benefits of digitizing operations by showing the results that we are capable of obtaining versus an operation that is not digitized. For example, if we start working in a hospital, we are able to reduce patient absenteeism by between 50-70 percent versus a process that was previously done with phone calls. This helps reduce costs considerably and increases access to healthcare by freeing up the spaces taken by patients who never intended to come or had to reschedule. AI makes it possible to adapt to the way patients speak, making communication seem natural.

Q: What is an example of a success case?

 A: Our technology is simple yet effective at generating great value from day one for health providers and it considerably reduces absenteeism. In general, a health provider loses between 25-35 percent of its care capacity due to patient absenteeism. Cero.ai can reduce this problem by allowing health providers to schedule new appointments as soon as a spot opens, organically treating more patients. This technology allows them to solve communication issues on a massive scale.

The development of the company itself is a success story because we are working with over 300 health providers and none has stopped using the service. We also caught the attention of Y Combinator, a top-tier Silicon Valley accelerator and top venture capital firms have believed in us.      

Q: How do you plan to continue improving your product?

A: Implementing these processes requires a lot of preparation and investment. Therefore, we are developing communication processes that seek to help the health provider fully use its resources. We start by understanding patient attendance patterns to help doctors to manage their calendar, rescheduling patients who need further procedures and even channeling them to other professionals. We can also help chronic patients to adhere to their treatments and prevent their conditions from worsening. We can help medical centers or providers to quickly adjust their schedules.

The processes we are developing seek to optimize user experience by planning for future appointments, such as those for children's vaccination or for treatment for diabetic patients. We also seek to reduce the workload of the hospital’s support team. All tasks can be automated. The only thing that is out of our range of action is the direct conversation between the doctor and the patient.

Q: What added value do you bring as Centro.ai’s CEO?

A: I am originally trained as a dentist and as a health professional, I know first-hand what it means to care for a patient. I also know the coordination problems and limitations that exist within organizations to coordinate care with patients. I have seen and experienced thousands of wasted hours and strategies implemented to try to solve patient coordination problems. This experience has allowed me to understand the value of incorporating technology to support care management and help providers focus on serving their patients in the most efficient way. We are building Cero.ai from these experiences and all our solutions are based on real experiences from care teams and patients.


Cero.ai is a patient and hospital management platform that coordinates over 1.5 million doctor appointments per month at over 300 medical centers and hospitals

Sofía Garduño Sofía Garduño Journalist & Industry Analyst