Machine learning, IBM Watson aid in answering benefits questions

Welltok unit develops virtual benefits agent as a way to apply cognitive computing, says Ryan Pellet.

A company that develops Software as a Service to help consumers navigate health insurance options is rolling out a new solution that uses machine learning and the computing capabilities of IBM Watson.

Welltok is offering its Virtual Benefits Agent, developed by its Applied Cognitive Computing Practice. The company says the solution that addresses the majority of health coverage and preventative care questions before they reach a customer service representative, presenting health plans with the potential to save millions of dollars.

The Virtual Benefits Agent was created by Welltok’s Applied Cognitive Computing Practice, which applies proprietary technologies, IBM Watson and expertise to solve complex healthcare challenges. Recently, the team worked with a major national health plan, building on an existing framework and leveraging available content, to expedite development of the Virtual Benefits Agent capability.

The plan, which handles about 30 million member calls annually, sought to reduce the high-cost, high-touch model of service centers.

Also See: IBM CEO says Watson stands out by protecting clients’ data

The Virtual Benefits Agent feature responds to personalized questions such as, “What is my current deductible?” or “What services are free to me?” in seconds, and also predicts future questions. The technology may be deployed on health plan portals and mobile applications, enabling 24/7 dialog with members and virtual conversations on more complex topics.

By providing members with an intelligent, self-service solution, health plans now have the opportunity to improve consumer satisfaction by guiding them to appropriate and more cost-effective benefits.

“We are just starting to discover the countless ways we can apply cognitive computing to healthcare,” said Ryan Pellet, senior vice president of consulting and services for Welltok. “We are excited to have addressed a costly and cumbersome issue with our proprietary technology and IBM Watson, and will continue to explore opportunities to simplify the consumer’s experience and drive new, more effective ways to engage with and satisfy them.”

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