Technology and digital transformations in care management have had their fair share of successes and several mixed results. One of the areas that has had its share of challenges is in applying automation, self-service, education and monitoring for chronic care, post-discharge care and to elder care scenarios. The core issue or displeasure that is often called out is the need for human interaction, which is demanded by users, versus the experience of staring at a computer or mobile screen to enter information.
The emergence of virtual assistants and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities opens up an opportunity to transform the points of care further. Whether the platforms with nice names and voices such as Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri and Microsoft Cortona, or the not so appetizing names of Google Home (“Ok Google”) and IBM Watson—they have all collectively revolutionized the way our technology tools interact with us.
These voice-enabled AI assistants today can call your loved ones, find and recommend music, tell you jokes, read out the news and weather report and order your medication or food. Soon they will be able to even digest the latest happenings coming down the grapevine in your favourite social groups and keep your socially connected, albeit “virtually.”
Two interesting technology milestones have been achieved in 2017. One: Voice recognition today has surpassed human cognition (see chart below). Two: Greater access given to machine learning platforms and the exponential growth of AI skills that these platforms understand.
Already, WebMD information and HealthTap’s doctor connect are now available via Amazon Alexa, within weeks of its launch. Another tool called One Drop, lets diabetes patients track their blood sugar information by verbally telling Alexa instead of making a note in some app or on a piece of paper.
The heart of the Care Management problem that’s alluded to above can be summed up in these words: “interactivity”, “understand me” and the “element of fun”. These are associated with human interaction, an element that typically gets lost with care automation in the traditional sense. As you can see, with the advent of voice-enabled AI platforms, they can now be addressed.
Opportunities for care transformation in this area can be looked at in the following buckets:-
Assistive Support: Extending the idea of virtual assistants to train the AI system to answer common queries in healthcare setups.
- When is my next appointment?
- What time is the doctor coming today?
- What is the status of my insurance approval?
- Request for food or drink
These assistive support capabilities will reduce the administrative burden (approx. 20% of nursing or admin time spent to answer routine queries) and lower the cost of care at hospitals and nursing homes. These support functions do not impact the overall care delivery process nor require any approval from regulatory bodies. They can quickly be incorporated to increase bandwidth of support staff and lower costs.
Care Management Support: This area is a natural extension of assistive support and does not require adopting an entirely new workflow. It involves keeping patients up-to-speed, engaged and educated with their care regimen.
- Natural voice reminders for their next vital collection
- Assisting in vital collection via regular or Bluetooth devices with voice-enabled saving of data
- Reminders for their food and medication intake and tracking of diet plans
- Educational materials delivered inter-spaced with fun anecdotes and stories with verbal confirmation on their interest levels and understanding
These care support capabilities present home care providers with new business models by reducing the number of physical visits while providing superior care informed by better insights. The center-based nursing facilities and retirement homes can lower cost of service while providing a variety of entertainment options such as on-demand quality music.
Care Intelligence: Imagine the possibilities of an ambient listening device with AI service connected to your EHR on the cloud.
- If a patient said “I ate peanuts and my lips started swelling”, their EHR could be updated about their potential allergies (at least as an intelligence note for review)
- During a doctor’s consultation, Virtual Assistants could check against a drug interaction database and flag potential conflicts just based on the doctor saying out the drug name while in conversation with the patient
- Automated but “natural sounding” chat-bots can collect information on mental state and well-being, walk-through assessments and monitoring
Care Intelligence can identify errors, issues before they happen and raise the quality of care. But these also create HIPAA-related hurdles for patient privacy and requires a thorough review of the impact on FDA guidelines. Napier Healthcare is already pioneering the use of these technologies and opportunities for our customers to use within their healthcare setups. The mission: to continue lowering costs and improve the quality of care they provide.
— By Anil Kumar, Vice President, Products, Napier Healthcare Solutions