EBO frees up 35% of patient-contact time for Saint James Hospital

EBO developed a custom built Virtual Assistant for Saint James Hospital to automate and offer immediate answers to patients’ FAQs on a 24/7 basis as well as manage patients’ appointment bookings from start to finish.

About Saint James

Founded over 25 years ago, Saint James Hospital boasts a broad range of services as well as a portfolio of state-of-the-art hospitals, operation theatres, and various clinics. The hospital is backed by the latest technology, in keeping with its mission to lead in modern healthcare services and cutting-edge technology. 

Redefining the Healthcare Industry

The onset of new technologies and the increasing use of digital devices has altered customer expectations and demand. The healthcare industry is no exception. Patients are becoming more informed and empowered to make healthcare decisions. They expect to be involved in the choices of treatment and hospitalisation and demand services to be delivered efficiently and conveniently, in comfortable settings.

Such demands have led to an urgent need for contemporary healthcare providers to shift to a more personalised patient-centric service, improving clinical quality, efficiency and overall patient experience. As a result, the entire concept of traditional healthcare delivery is being forced to evolve and redefine itself.

The hospital of tomorrow sees digital technology impacting every part of the patient journey and driving disruption in care delivery, including a shift to self-service, remote access, and greater transparency.

Automation powered by Artificial Intelligence will also play a large role in changing the way clinical workforce is deployed. Whilst it is already shaping the delivery of healthcare in hospitals, automation will continue to grow and become an efficient, cost-effective way of driving the industry forward.

Saint James Hospital approached EBO to help it take advantage of and adopt AI automation in order to enhance its communication processes and overall patient experience.

The Solution

After extensive research, data mining and business analysis workshops with the Saint James Hospital team, EBO developed a custom-built Virtual Assistant (VA) for the hospital. Leveraging the power of Artificial Intelligence and automation, this VA, named Jamie, can today automate the repetitive tasks and queries which are usually handled manually by the Hospital’s contact centre.

Implemented on and accessible via both the hospital’s website and Facebook Messenger, to ensure convenience for patients, Jamie’s job is twofold. Not only does it offer immediate answers to patients’ FAQs on a 24/7 basis (such as provide schedule times and available consultants) but it also manages patient appointment bookings from start to finish.

In response to patients’ growing expectations for immediate customer care and convenience, an automated and human-like conversation with the VA allows users to book appointments through a dialogue flow built for this purpose. Prompted and guided through the process by Jamie’s questions, patients can select appointments by clinicians, specialisation, and location. Within minutes, an appointment can be booked, changed, or cancelled without the need for human intervention or manual administration.


How it works

The VA is designed to carry out human-like dialogues. Thanks to its AI context and sentiment awareness, Jamie can identify customers’ emotions and adjust the dialogue accordingly. This gives the VA an element of agility in its response to customers. The VA’s Natural Language Processing training also allows it the capability to recognise a large variety of requests, regardless of conversation intricacies or changes in context.

EBO securely integrated the VA with the Hospital’s Health Information System (HIS) and back office, so that patients and staff, can have access to their existing appointments to edit and/or cancel accordingly, giving patients more control over their health decisions. It also automates the complex process that follows when appointments are cancelled or rescheduled. Once appointments are made, Saint James Hospital staff is notified and patients receive an electronic confirmation notice. Auto verification reminders are sent to the patient for confirmation when their appointment date is approaching to assure attendance whilst eliminate costly paper letter confirmation.

The shift from manual phone call handling to automation aims to streamline communication flow, increase efficiency for both staff and patients, eliminate call wait-time, and ultimately improve patient satisfaction.

Introducing Artificial Intelligence into the booking process allows staff to focus on their day-to-day business routines, leaving repetitive tasks to the Virtual Assistant. It also helps the hospital to scale up its team and handle surges in bookings, without having to grow the team and increase costs. The VA is a 24/7 service handling bookings during out-of-office hours, creating more convenience for the patient as well as potentially reducing the surge in bookings occurring during peak office hours.


EBO also developed and enabled the same VA to automate booking office management of inpatient appointments and complex workflows.

EBO’s team of professional software developers integrated the VA with Saint James Hospitals Health Information System and Electronic Patient Records to enable booking automation from start to finish, including handling logistics and dependencies. Such workflows ranged from automatically handling patient forms, such as consent forms, insurance and payment to theatre slot allocation and surgery kit lists preparation.

The VA can issue and manage departmental requests, push communications internally and externally and also automate waiting-lists to fill the gaps, ensuring an increase in theatre slot utilisation and maximise resources.

The future of healthcare lies in patient engagement. Such engagement can help Saint James Hospital to personalise its communication and treatments according to the patient’s preferences and diagnosis. Integrating the VA into its Hospital’s Health Information System and EPR, the hospital can now capture all patient data into one user-friendly channel, providing it with analytical data, including sentiment analysis.  

Through this same backend, Saint James Hospital has full control over conversational workflows and can manage, build or enhance conversation flows. Staff can also take over the chat, should the conversation require human intervention.

EBO also developed and enabled the same VA to automate booking office management of inpatient appointments and complex workflows.

EBO believes that conversation is what can make an effective patient experience and draw a hospital closer to its patients. That’s why EBO holds Natural Language Processing (NLP) at the heart of its service offering. EBO’s team of NLP experts built and designed conversations workflows for each intent, taking into consideration the different patient journeys and scenarios, consistent tone of voice and testing workflows from a user-experience point of view. On configuration, the NLP experts developed a training model to train the VA with specific terms and thus develop the conversation workflows.

Once in action, the VA’s machine learning capabilities would then apply self-learning techniques to train and keep its language library up to date and learn as it goes along, without the requirement of human handholding. This allows it to adapt, understand and handle a wider range of complex tasks and customer requests.

The VA’s NLP abilities and integration with Saint James Hospital’s Electronic Patient Records (EPR), allows it to personalise conversations with customers and remember customer preferences, after its first conversation. This helps to increase customer loyalty and customer lifetime value.

COVID-19 brought about an influx of swab test bookings and enquiries at Saint James Hospital. In order to manage the increase in workload on customer-service and meet patients’ needs 24/7, EBO recently introduced an automated online swab test booking functionality. Patients can now book their swab tests online at any point in time, via Jamie. The Virtual Assistant can have a friendly chat with customers, book and reschedule their swab tests and answer their queries without the need for human handover or management. 

€100,000 saved in staff payroll per year 

Today Jamie automates 12,000 outpatient bookings per year, enabling 24/7 two-way personalised patient conversations. By handling repetitive tasks and bookings at scale, Jamie has: 

  • Absorbed 35% (on average) and 40% (at peak) of call workload 
  • Saved over €100,000 in staff payroll/year 
  • Freed up 28% of staffing requirements 
  • Registered 96% patient satisfaction rate 

On the Road to Becoming the Hospital of Tomorrow

Now that AI has been introduced and implemented, the opportunities for the hospital are endless. Introducing AI into its sales and booking process has made the Hospital a cut above the rest, rendering it a leader within the healthcare industry in terms of AI and innovation and placing it ahead of public health care services.

The next steps for the hospital include auto-generating pre and post-op plans, hospital auto check-in, personalised treatments based on patient diagnosis and real-time access to medical knowledge.

Saint James Hospital continues to drive forward, responding to patient needs, creating richer more responsive patient journeys and ultimately improving the healthcare system.

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