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by Vagelis H. 04/29/2021

Provider time is a scarce resource. AI technology is well-positioned to automate some of the components of the provider-patient interaction, to make visits more efficient for all parties. Chatbots can be effective at collecting patient information before a visit takes place. Two of the most critical operations where chatbots can play a significant time-saving role are:

Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) screening. SDoH can account for up to 80 percent of individual health outcomes.1 Periodically collecting SDoH information can improve the quality of care, save many minutes of the provider’s time during a visit, and refer to the right community services in a timely manner.

Pre-visit planning is a proactive approach to care that ensures each visit is meaningful and well-organized by shifting administrative tasks out of a patient’s appointment time so team members can focus on the patient — not paperwork.2 With pre-visit planning, providers have the information they need at the time of the visit, and the care team can address the patient’s needed services based on evidence-based care. Plus, staff have more time to collect copays, schedule necessary follow-ups and perform other tasks that must be completed while the patient is onsite.

For chatbots to be effective in these (or other similar) tasks, they must satisfy several requirements:

Be HIPAA-compliant. For example, collecting this information over SMS or Facebook Messenger is not HIPAA-compliant. However, these non-HIPAA media can be used to initiate a chat and then move the conversation to a secure medium by sending a hyperlink.

Be frictionless (see our previous article about frictionless chatbots). Asking patients to remember a username and password, and login to a patient portal (like MyChart) to enter this information is an example of a high-friction solution. Asking them to download and install a mobile app is even higher friction. An effective solution is to send an automated SMS message to the patient (thus using the phone number as an authentication mechanism), which includes a secure hyperlink (for HIPAA-compliance as mentioned above).

Integrate with the patient’s health record. Depending on the size or nature of the organization, this means integrating with a large EHR system like Epic (through an integration protocol like FHIR), or a smaller one like DrChrono. In addition to EHRs, integration with an organization’s workflow may be achieved by sending notifications to the right staff members (e.g. case managers) when action is required.

SmartBot360 provides a platform and expert healthcare consultants to easily design automated SMS-based HIPAA-compliant chatbot workflows to achieve efficient SDoH screening and pre-visit planning.


1 Sanne Magnan. “Social Determinants of Health 101 for Health Care: Five Plus Five” National Academy of Medicine


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