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2 eHealthcare Strategy & Trends August 2012
Volume 16 Number 3 ▪ March 2014 www.strategichealthcare.com
Virtual Assistants...
2 eHealthcare Strategy & Trends March 2014
According to Smith, there are multi-
ple applications for IVAs in the
healthcar...
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Virtual Assistants Become the Newest Members of the Healthcare Team

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Virtual Assistants Become the Newest Members of the Healthcare Team. With its interactive IVAs, CodeBaby has tried to simulate an online conversation.

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Virtual Assistants Become the Newest Members of the Healthcare Team

  1. 1. 2 eHealthcare Strategy & Trends August 2012 Volume 16 Number 3 ▪ March 2014 www.strategichealthcare.com Virtual Assistants Become the Newest Members of the Healthcare Team by Theresa Jacobellis “Hi. I’m Myra. When you’re ready, click on one of these links to get started,” she says in a warm voice with a confident and professional tone. “As a lifestyle health coach, I can tell you a good program starts with a health risk as- sessment. So, we have some ques- tions about your medical history and your current health.” With her hair pinned up in a bun and wearing a white lab coat, Myra is focused on assisting the patient with the completion of an online risk as- sessment form. She won’t be dis- tracted by the needs of another patient, a ringing telephone, or a co- worker. That’s because Myra isn’t human. She is an intelligent virtual assistant (IVA), an online consumer engagement tool that is helping to measurably improve the online user experience in the healthcare environ- ment. “The human voice is where you’re able to make an emotional con- nection with the online user,” ex- plains Dennis McGuire, CEO of CodeBaby, a leading IVA technology provider. “About 40 percent of what users comprehend online is through audio, so we don’t use a computer-generated voice but an emotionally appropriate human voice to support whatever content and experience our clients are going after.” CodeBaby was founded by physi- cians who launched and eventually sold a video gaming company while finishing their residency training. That experience equipped them with a vision of an online virtual assistant to guide users through various ac- tivities. Educational and training modules were among their earliest applications. They soon realized that healthcare is particularly well suited to using their technology. “In healthcare, you have complex products and services where the user may not be comfortable with the subject matter and terminology,” says McGuire. “Consumers may need additional assistance to feel empowered in making correct deci- sions for themselves and their families.” The emergence of a Web-centric society, where consumers frequently turn to online tools to manage many aspects of their lives, created greater opportunities for CodeBaby to mar- ket its technology. “Our lives have moved online. We do many things on the Web, and that has led to a wave of movement toward creating better customer experiences and self-service op- portunities,” McGuire says. “We focus on making sure the brand, product, or service is giving con- sumers and patients the options they want to get information on their terms, within their time frame, using the channels they choose.” With its interactive IVAs, CodeBaby has tried to simulate an online con- versation. “We are trying to replicate what it’s like talking to a service rep on the phone,” says McGuire. “We create short interactive segments, so it’s not a one-way monologue.” Data seems to support the value of offering consumers virtual online support. “We’ve helped clients achieve a 98 percent forms completion rate,” says Mike Smith, vice president of busi- ness development for CodeBaby.
  2. 2. 2 eHealthcare Strategy & Trends March 2014 According to Smith, there are multi- ple applications for IVAs in the healthcare space. “They can be used for hospital check-in or insurance verification. Help desks at hospitals are amazingly overwhelmed. Using an IVA can cut call center time, and that means saving lots of man- hours,” he says. CodeBaby claims that organizations using its technology have experi- enced a 76 percent in- crease in customer engagement, a 27 percent increase in paying cus- tomer con- versions, and an 80 percent increase in form accu- racy. As online health insurance market- places debut around the country, virtual assistants can help walk con- sumers through the complex process of selecting an appropriate plan. Similarly, commercial insurance companies are finding the technol- ogy beneficial in helping their members navigate complicated and content-rich websites. Providers may also find that virtual assistants can educate patients in a way that rivals or even surpasses the human touch – and can help the bottom line by reducing read- missions. “Early research at Boston University with a rudimentary avatar providing discharge instructions in the patient’s native language resulted in a 30 per- cent lower readmission rate,” McGuire says. “When dealing with a human you don’t know very well, most of us don’t want to expose our igno- rance, so we are less likely to drill down and ask questions. When in- teracting with an avatar on- line, peo- ple know it’s not a real human; it’s just a char- acter, so they feel comfortable asking questions. They end up with a better understanding of the requirements of their situation, which results in better disease management.” With a library of more than 80 char- acters that can be customized in terms of appearance, wardrobe, voice, and even language to suit the personality of the healthcare brand, CodeBaby offers an avatar for every- body. Avatars can even be cus- tomized according to the user’s preferences. And for those who pre- fer to go it alone, the avatar will hap- pily disappear from the screen. To view a personal health assessment demo, go to http://player.vimeo.com/video/ 44419507?autoplay=1. And to view a demo setting up an appointment, go to http://player.vimeo.com/ video/24472840?autoplay=1. Theresa Jacobellis, MS, is assistant vice president of development and public affairs at Good Samaritan Hospital Medical Center in West Islip, NY. You can reach her at thjacobellis@optonline.net. eH © 2014 Health Care Communications. All rights reserved. This article is used with permission of the publisher. Visit www.strategichealthcare.com/pubs/ ehealth for more information.

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