Augmented intelligence: How robots paired with humans can improve your health
A person living with a chronic condition like diabetes often needs a bit of help when it comes to following doctor’s orders in between office visits. Communicating with a chatbot on a personal device can help track and log data on exercise, medications, and general wellbeing.
The challenge is that often the context might drive the conversation into a totally different direction. The robot, as smart as it is, won’t always have the right insight or know the right next question to ask.
That’s why we believe in augmented intelligence: machine learning backed by a medical professional. Allowing bots to work effectively alongside humans provides a highly contextual response when a patient has a specific line of questioning. At the same time, it provides a richer machine learning opportunity to train the bot and fill in gaps in its knowledge.
The problem worth addressing is the very limited time a patient has to see a doctor, coupled with the fact that people have a hard time following a care plan. Even if you have gone through the “social contract” of agreeing with your doctor to do something like exercise or take medication, the actual chances of you doing it are not very high, to begin with, and they become lower as time goes by.
Robots without a human involved could work in health if all of the questions are going to be transactional, such as asking about benefits or deductibles. But it quickly becomes harder because patients tend to want more information or to talk about things they are worried about.
The augmented intelligence approach makes it easier for people to follow their care plans and even be able to link back with their practitioners and make changes on the go, rather than wait three months until the next appointment.
The ability to use bots is the ability to get care 24/7. Furthermore, bots and technology can provide support for the in-between visits, the in-the-moment type problems that happen on a daily basis – especially for those in chronic conditions.
One big lesson learned about digital technology from the financial services industry is that being efficient is more important than offering a beautiful experience. You want the machines to be smart about answering the questions and also about asking the follow-up questions. And you’ve got to be sensitive to when can you actually triage from the system to a human without causing frustration.
Digital health technology requires context, connection, and continuity to be a success, and that’s what chatbots supply. They’re always awake. And people with chronic conditions often need an answer immediately. The only way that gets practised today is with the person driving to the ER, which of course is an incredibly costly thing.
When people know they can access a 24/7 response, like Amazon and Netflix, they do. And robots are aware of what’s happening with that consumer at any point in time, including location and the context of the situation while being able to triage back to an expert human being.
Is a healthcare consumer ready to now step into the ER and be managed by a machine instead of a human? No. But that same person who just wants to understand if their blood pressure reading is okay wants immediate feedback. A lot of people dealing with chronic conditions are ready to use something more efficient.
Bots are going to play a hugely significant role in the future of how healthcare is delivered. We come up with new conditions and complexities every day, and it’s getting harder for doctors to read and keep up with new research. Machines are really good at learning, so over time, the ability to access knowledge and define situations in a much more granular form will be driven much more by machines.
As health care becomes more focused on outcomes, being able to share risks and rewards with consumers is going to be important as well. Already we’re seeing life insurance companies that are starting to lower the premiums if they can see that people remain active and healthy. The more sophisticated the model becomes, the more technology will be a key part of being able to participate successfully.
We want people to be empowered to handle their health better. And empowered should mean visiting their doctor and having a meaningful conversation with a physician. Using bots can deepen this interaction because it allows us to collect more information, really understand our health habits, and closely examine how our habits actually impact our health. Doctors are there to be our specialist and help us make some of the right choices.
I think consumers are feeling more ready than ever for healthcare to jump a couple of generations ahead because people are so used to technology in other segments of their lives. We will see a lot of momentum in the next three to five years, and the tipping point of mass adoption is probably about five years away. It’s not a question of if, it’s a question of when.