- Posted by Victor Morrison
- On June 25, 2012
- Natural Language Understanding, Patient Engagement, Virtual Health Assistants
Patient engagement is, for good reason, the hottest of topics right now in the healthcare field – particularly the role that cutting-edge technology plays in driving the engagement. Today’s patient is uber-connected, and with nearly 50% of U.S. adults now owning a smartphone, using these devices to empower patients to engage in their healthcare is a logical next step. Given the looming primary care physician shortage, offering 24/7 live-support from a care provider on our devices would not be scalable. So, what about the next best thing? A friendly, conversational Virtual Health Assistant that’s able to guide patients through medication management, motivate them to stick with their wellness routines, and more, right on their constant companion: the smartphone.
Not a moment too soon for patients, the technology necessary to engage them with Virtual Health Assistants is available today, and several innovative Payer and Pharma organizations are actively pursuing the opportunity to lead the way. A Virtual Health Assistant deployed via a smartphone, tablet or PC is in position to be a constant life companion and personal coach with a singular focus on connecting with the patient in a meaningful way and empowering them to effectively manage their health. TheNatural Language Understanding that will breathe life into Virtual Health Assistants has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade. As a result, their ability to have conversations with humans across service channels and devices, understand context and deal with complex issues has evolved to a HAL-like level of sophistication (sans the “drama” he wreaked in 2001: Space Odyssey of course), or for the younger set, Ironman’s JARVIS. In a recent article, Benjamin Littenberg, MD – CMO at Patient Engagement Systems says, “Patient engagement tools enable physicians to extend care outside of the office visit and help keep patients engaged on a continual basis, without placing undue burdens on physicians or their staff.” The challenging ecosphere that is healthcare is about to be turned upside down, with patients standing on top….with their smartphone and Virtual Health Assistant.
Forward-thinking organizations outside of healthcare, like the airline, insurance, and financial service industries are already successfully deploying Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVAs). Good deployments offer the benefits of reducing the burden on call centers and developing revenue-enabling customer intimacy — an intimacy that goes well beyond the limitations of Integrated Voice Recognition (IVR) technology or non-IVA enhanced websites.
While Virtual Health Assistants can offer the above and much more to healthcare, the fact that they are technically able to do all of the aforementioned is not nearly enough to ensure that they will be successful. It takes an open mind to consider, but the ability of a Virtual Health Assistant to establish a therapeutic alliance with patients is what will determine success. This ‘connection’ will greatly increase the odds that a patient will see the Virtual Health Assistant’s coaching and counseling as helpful and empowering, and not annoying or intrusive, and provide us with a viable opportunity to improve health outcomes.
Have you taken your med today? That might be your Virtual Health Assistant calling you now!