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Next IT sent its virtual personal assistant tech to medical school.

The result is Alme for Healthcare, a virtual health assistant that understands medical language and can have conversations with patients.

The goal is to provide additional support to stretched-thin physicians, and better care to patients.

Using natural language processing and artificial intelligence, Alme guides patients through a number of healthcare processes. It can answer questions about insurance, find doctors, track personal goals, support adherence to treatment regimens, suggest healthy food choices, send reminders, share lab results, and communicate basic pieces of information — all through a mobile device.

This cuts down on the amount of time patients and care providers need to spend communicating, so both can focus on more important and/or complicated issues.

Medical costs are sky-high and the tide in healthcare is going towards patient control, and giving patients tools and technology to manage their own care at a lower cost. There is a tremendous amount of innovation going on right now in the mobile-medical space — we are seeing otoscopes that plug into iPhones, flu heat maps, and apps to help manage cardiac disease.

All these technologies are built on the idea that digital health tech can make the healthcare system more efficient and navigable for everyone in it.

Next IT was founded in 2002 and works with huge clients like Aetna, Alaska Airlines, Amtrack, United Airlines, Merrill Lynch and the U.S. Army. The company claims to power millions of conversations in the customer service domain, helping to reduce response times to help desk requests.

It saw an opportunity to apply this type of support to the healthcare industry, which is an incredibly complicated field with high stakes. For anyone to use the app requires a significant amount of trust in the technology.

However a survey by Nuance found that 80 percent of doctors believe that by 2018, virtual assistants that are powered by clinical language understanding will dramatically change how physicians interact and use electronic health records.

80 percent also said that virtual assistants will benefit patients by engaging them in the care process, prompting them to adhere to health advice, and modifying behaviors.

75 percent think virtual assistants could improve health care and patient participation by supporting care coordination between multiple caregivers.

65 percent of doctors said the top role for a virtual assistant is more accuracy and more timely information to support care or alert them to missing information.

Next IT worked with healthcare professionals to develop the platform. Alme for healthcare is built on patient ontology, and focuses on goal-based conversations. It also includes useful illustrations, like showing where to do at-home injections.

Alme is HIPAA compliant, and every conversation is logged and can be reviewed by doctors.

Healthcare provider Aetna piloted Alme in 2010, under the name “Ann.” Aetna said that more than half the people registering on the website for the first time engage with Ann, and that five months after implementation, they saw a 29% reduction in calls to their membership serve help desk. Ann now answers nearly 50,000 questions a day and nearly 1.5 million questions per month.

Next IT has been around long enough that it can support this volume at scale.


Next IT is base din Spokane, Washington.

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