UCHealth deploys Alexa-based virtual assistant for voice-enabled patient engagement

The voice-activated technology enables patients to interact with the health system through their smart speakers, allowing them to ask for wellness information, seek referrals or look for urgent care.
By Mike Miliard
04:25 PM

In what it says is one of the most comprehensive deployments of conversational AI so far in the country, UCHealth has launched a new virtual assistant meant to help patients find care, services and health information.

WHY IT MATTERS
The technology, called Livi, is available via the Amazon Alexa smart speaker, and enables patients to communicate with UCHealth across the organization.

The Colorado health system says the broader functionality of the application, which was developed in collaboration with AI startup avaamo, makes it more inclusive than other provider-deployed virtual assistants designed for just a few tasks and use cases.

Livi does not diagnose conditions or give medical advice, of course, but it does answer queries such as "I'm looking for information on diabetes," or "Can you find me a neurologist" or "I need urgent care," according to UCHealth.

It can also find the contact information for specific physicians. To communicate with Livi, patients need to add the UCHealth "skill" on Alexa and start with the opening greeting, "Alexa, ask UCHealth."

THE LARGER TREND
Next step could be deploying Livi on Google Assistant devices, which is currently being tested. Beyond that, UCHealth is also eyeing an integration with its electronic health record system and mobile app, officials say, enabling patients to connect with more personal health information and get answers to questions such as, What are my latest test results?"

As Healthcare IT News showed in a 2018 special report, voice assistants, which seemed like futuristic sci-fi only recently, are quickly transforming care delivery and patient engagement at health systems such as Beth Israel Lahey Health, Northwell Health and others nationwide.

That's not to say there isn't room for improvement, of course. A recent study of Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri found some problems with inaccurate voice recognition, especially for queries seeking accurate medical information.

ON THE RECORD
"By leveraging the benefits of AI and implementing this technology at UCHealth, ultimately we are creating an efficient, seamless way for patients to get the information they need and gain greater access to preventive health care and the most advanced medicine and specialists in the Rocky Mountain region," said Steve Hess, chief information officer for UCHealth.

"Conversational AI is truly the future of how we will interact with almost everything in our lives, from our cars, to the web, and even health care," said Ram Menon, CEO of avaamo. "UCHealth's CARE Innovation Center has partnered with us to develop and test this cutting-edge technology, and the health system is pushing the technology further than any other health care provider in the nation."

Twitter: @MikeMiliardHITN
Email the writer: mike.miliard@himssmedia.com

Healthcare IT News is a publication of HIMSS Media.