Payers mull more use of voice-activated AI to engage patients

More payers are looking for unique ways to engage members, including the use of voice-activated artificial intelligence.

Today’s consumers have grown used to technological advances making life easier all round them, and they expect that to extend to their healthcare experiences, as well.

“Shared risk models among providers and payers will help drive new approaches with virtual care delivery—and voice will play an integral role,” says Bill Rogers, CEO of Boston-based Orbita, provider of an enterprise platform for voice and conversational AI, whose clients include Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Mayo Clinic, Amgen and Merck.

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“We’re seeing a significant uptick in the use of conversational AI, voice applications and chatbots in retail, hospitality and other industries, but the value of this technology will perhaps be most significant in healthcare where the industry must find new ways to reduce costs while improving outcomes,” Rogers says.

Rogers has observed increasing interest in conversational AI among payer executives, especially those with titles that include chief consumer officer; head of enterprise and consumer digital experience; senior vice president of digital strategy; vice president of customer innovation and head of member services operations.

“These individuals are responsible for digital health solutions to improve satisfaction, engagement, and outcomes among health plan members, whether globally through improved call center operations or for specific populations such as those involved in disease-specific health and wellness programs,” he says.

Rogers advises health plans looking to branch out into voice AI to empower members through new self-service options that eliminate the challenges of web browsing or long wait times. One way is by allowing virtual assistants to help members find a provider or assist with open enrollment. AI can also help with guiding members through symptom checking or triage, or help a patient navigate a specific care protocol. He notes that much of the “early market sizzle” on voice activated devices centered around Amazon Echo and Google Home, with some payers jumping on board.

Cigna was an early entrant into the world of conversational AI, when in March 2018 it launched the Answers by Cigna skill for Amazon Alexa, which provides easy answers to more than 150 common healthcare questions to help members take full advantage of their plan benefits. Orbita helped Cigna make Answers by Cigna available across omni-channel environments.

“Beyond the popular view of ‘voice’ that’s closely aligned with smart speakers, we’re seeing more and more interest in the role of voice for web and mobile chatbots as well as voice engagement with kiosks or even medical devices themselves,” Rogers says. “Research is showing that many people, including the elderly, like to engage with voice—rather than typing or swiping—and millennials will come to expect it.”

On July 23, Orbita unveiled a new solution accelerator that allows healthcare organizations to quickly and easily deploy consumer-facing voice and chat applications that can assist with finding services, finding providers and scheduling appointments.

“Healthcare organizations are tapping the power of voice and chat interfaces to deliver more natural, conversational experiences that improve engagement and user satisfaction,” Rogers says. “Our new best practice-based, out-of-the-box solution accelerator is designed to increase efficiency and flexibility when creating and deploying popular healthcare consumer offerings.”

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