Experiential conversational AI in healthcare

Powered by artificial intelligence (AI), digital humans are working in healthcare and medicine settings today to create supportive, accessible and meaningful patient interactions in a digital world.

From improving health literacy and healthcare accessibility to easing the burden on front-line staff, digital humans educate and inform, while combining the best of in-person and digital care to help people live better lives.

Learn how these healthcare institutions are using UneeQ to power their patient and customer experiences

What makes us UneeQ

In a world where only half of countries have enough healthcare staff to provide quality care, artificial intelligence is stepping in. By 2026, the healthcare industry in the US alone will need 11.6 million workers to meet the demand for new clinicians. According to Accenture, artificial intelligence can cover 20% of that – while saving $150 billion a year.

AI in healthcare is solving for convenience, scalability and lowering the cost of medical treatment. But only digital humans are able to maintain some of the all-important human touch as well. By providing dynamic, real-time interactions with your patients, digital humans offer more than healthcare chatbots or virtual assistants possibly can on their own.

Healthcare simply cannot afford to become robotic – despite the benefits of automation. Digital humans bring warmth, empathy and humanity to AI interfaces. In turn, patients feel seen, heard and valued. All while maintaining the advantages of digital healthcare solutions.

Healthcare icon 1 (1)

From managing prescriptions to providing diet tips, or simply checking in on how a patient is feeling, digital humans work across the healthcare spectrum, helping to ease the burden on the frontline.

Healthcare icon 2 (1)

Make the most of digital healthcare. Digital humans are available 24/7, speak over 40 languages, integrate into existing systems and databases, and can be used anywhere, by anyone, at any time.

Healthcare icon 3 (2)

Level up your healthcare chatbot. Built on (and working alongside) your chatbot, patients now have an engaging “human” experience. One that shows friendliness, companionship and compassion.

Digital humans working in healthcare today

Digital John Kirwan | Humanizing mental healthcare

Mentemia’s mental wellbeing app puts a friendly digital human interaction at the heart of its healthcare solution – one that’s available when you need it.

LEARN MORE

Cardiac Coach | A concept for better rehabilitation

Post-operative care is so important for preventing repeat admissions. Cardiac Coach is built to help, through friendly and personalized conversations.

LEARN MORE

Sophie | Our AI-powered COVID-19 health advisor

A valuable source of truth and a human connection during the 2020 pandemic, helping to prevent misinformation and combat health illiteracy.

LEARN MORE

A digital healthcare solution for people and patients

Ease some of the burden on real people. Digital humans can answer a huge range of health-related questions, giving specialists time to spend on the most pressing matters.

Available at the touch of a button

Anyone can interact with a digital human. They’re available 24/7, either online or via a kiosk, are multilingual and scale infinitely to meet patient demand.

Go beyond a lifeless healthcare chatbot

Your digital human uses non-verbal cues – tone of voice and humanlike expressions – to show sympathy, warmth, excitement, friendliness, empathy and more humanity.

Reimagining some of the biggest healthcare challenges

Digital humans never judge, are accessible to all and can offer simple companionship. It means they’re inherently built to combat health illiteracy, disability access and aged-care challenges.

  • “We've already deployed Mentemia's revolutionary digital wellbeing coach as a sleep coach to help people develop and maintain better sleeping patterns and routines.”
    MENTEMIA
    CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER
  • “Aimee will play a pivotal role in helping us to be there for our members 24/7, and deliver more value to them right when they need it.”
    SOUTHERN CROSS HEALTH SOCIETY
    CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER

A HISTORY OF HEALTHCARE AI: BATTLING TO KEEP THE HUMAN TOUCH

While digital humans are a relatively new technology, they build on decades of history in the artificial intelligence and machine learning space. As AI has developed, it hasn’t become less robotic, meaning we’re at risk of losing some of the all-important human touch from healthcare settings.

Digital humans seek to put a familiar, highly functional interface back at the forefront of medical care. While we won’t mention every AI technology and event to impact healthcare, here are some highlights.

1960s

ELIZA: Let’s start here, with the first ever chatbot. ELIZA was designed to emulate a Rogerian psychologist. It’s creator Joseph Weizenbaum was shocked to find people would disclose their deepest concerns in conversation with her.

1970s

Data and digitization: A lack of funding, understanding and prohibitive costs meant the following decades were known as the “AI Winter”. These decades brought a lot digitization of medical record systems that would set the stage for seamless AI interactions.

1980s

AI research: These early years were also a time where we deepened our understanding of AI use cases in healthcare. The American Association for Artificial Intelligence was established, and artificial neural networks were widely researched for clinical purposes.

2000s

Explosion of AI and machine learning: The sophistication of these technologies led to renewed interest. IBM Watson, AlexNet, DXplain and many others showed what’s possible. The goal became to make some of these technologies affordable.

2010s

Chatbots become widespread: Some 50 years on from ELIZA, chatbots in medicine and healthcare industries really took off – and today they’re having great outcomes. But AI remained robotic. This led to the inevitable…

2010s

Enter digital humans in healthcare: We were proud to work on Nadia, the first interactive digital human. Nadia worked briefly helping people with disabilities access information. USC also launched the first digital human built to identify PTSD among returning veterans.

2020s

The age of conversational AI: For decades, AI has looked to find function and affordability. Now we have it, conversational AI aims to make it more accessible and engaging. AI avatars and interfaces are making it so patients aren’t forced to speak to text boxes or robots. They have a human interface always available.

Bringing a human experience back to healthcare | Digital humans, chatbots and conversational AI.​

Artificial intelligence (AI) is stirring up exciting changes in healthcare. In an industry where human touch matters more than any other, digital humans are able to offer it – while remaining scalable, accessible, convenient and engaging.

Let’s be frank. If the global healthcare system went to see its GP, it would be sent straight to the emergency department. Some major healthcare challenges are converging at once, which requires some urgent care.

  • Overburdened, overworked healthcare professionals need help – particularly in the wake of the 2020 pandemic.
  • There’s an urgent need for greater health literacy around the world.
  • There is also an urgent need for more accessibility to healthcare, so people with a range of access issues get the same high level of care.
  • There are deep-seated issues to people not seeking care that must be solved.
  • There’s an overarching need to manage costs, particularly when associated with new technologies.
  • All this needs to be solved with patient outcomes in mind – people will always be the ultimate priority.

We’re so thankful for the incredible people doing the best possible job to maintain exceptional healthcare standards, but we need the right technologies to support them. That’s what AI applications in healthcare have strived to do. From medical chatbots to sophisticated neural networks and huge advances in machine learning, AI has proved to be incredibly functional and valuable.

But in our eagerness to find the Holy Grail of healthcare, we’re at risk of losing something important: the human touch.

Surgeons, GPs, nurses, in-home care workers and every worker in between has offered personal care for millennia. But in the shift to using healthcare technology – particularly digital healthcare and autonomous tools – we have to preserve some of what makes those in-person interactions so valuable.

That’s one of the reasons conversational AI is growing in the medical industry. Conversational AI platforms are set to grow to a value of $17 billion by 2025, Adroit Research predicts. It’s these technologies, embodied in AI avatar technologies like digital humans, that are putting some of that human touch back into healthcare interactions.

Let us explain…

  • READ MORE

    Conversational healthcare: AI with a human face

    For an industry that specializes in diagnostics, it’s not surprising that those in the healthcare sector know the challenges they face. But in search of a solution, we can’t afford to let basic standards of care slip. Healthcare can’t become robotic, functional and transactional at the loss of personal care and interaction.

    That’s not to say digital humans can perform every role a human currently does. Some roles you might see a conversational AI-powered digital human perform include:

    • Digital wayfinding: Triaging patients based on their requirements, helping them to find the level of care they need in a digital world.
    • Concierge: Welcoming and helping patients find their way around healthcare facilities, and manage the check-out process. 
    • Health education: Simply being available to answer the most common healthcare questions, so people have a way to learn about their physical and mental health, and live healthier lives.
    • Insurance form specialist: Specifically with medicare in the US, digital humans have been proven to increase accuracy and completion of complex medical forms, including those for medical intake and insurance. In fact, digital humans performed 2X better than other digital means.
    • Personal assistant: Tracking and managing appointments by integrating with existing software and back-end systems.
    • Follow-up support: 30% of patients say they don’t understand their discharge instructions and have questions about their prescriptions. Digital humans can aid with post-treatment and rehabilitation by answering questions around prescribed medicines or by providing dietary tips.
    • Life planner: Helping individuals manage major life changes, such as retirement, by answering questions and helping to plan for the future.
    • Companion: Being a friendly face people can turn to for an open-ended conversation, particularly those suffering from loneliness, like some in aged care.

     

    Helping to create the new healthcare digital workforce

    A quickly aging population is being compounded by a gap in the number of healthcare workers we have and how many we need to have in the very near future. According to Healthcareers, some 11.6 million workers will be needed in the United States alone by 2026 to meet the demand for new clinicians.

    Accenture analysis says AI solutions can plug around 20% of this gap. Conversational AI is likely to make up a majority of this patient-facing workforce, as chatbots, virtual assistants and digital humans step to the fore.

    That’s not to say Siri, Alexa or even Sophie – one of our own healthcare digital humans – will be diagnosing patient conditions and prescribing medicine. The value of these virtual technologies is that they can handle more “everyday” tasks, allowing healthcare professionals more time to do these parts of their jobs you wouldn’t want to automate.

    Let’s not forget the human impact of this. A 2018 study from BMC Health Services shows that 26% of healthcare workers (even before the pandemic) reported suffering from burn out. Almost one-third said they’re intending to leave their jobs within the next two years.

    And lastly, there’s a financial imperative to looking at digital healthcare workforces, too. The WHO estimates that workforce inefficiencies cost health systems roughly US$500 billion every year. Accenture, meanwhile, found that AI applications can potentially save the US healthcare economy around $150 billion annually.

    We’re not going to pretend that’s the potential of digital human technology. AI is helping clinicians in things like surgery and diagnostics, not just patient care. But we believe humanizing some of the patient-facing conversational AI technologies will mean these investments won’t strip away too much of the face-to-face experiences patients need to feel cared for and supported.

    Improving healthcare accessibility with digital humans

    As well as the growing employment issues, there are long stood challenges in the healthcare system that conversational AI is naturally able to help with – or even solve.

    The first and potentially most pressing is around access to healthcare. For one, not everyone can use a keyboard or a computer in general, leaving them inherently locked out of most digital healthcare.

    Digital humans interact with patients using either speech or text (or a combination of the two. For instance, those who can’t type can use natural face-to-face conversation to find support and help. Digital human user interfaces can also include elements like subtitles and visuals to help people understand better – if they’re more visual learners, for example.

    Improving access to healthcare among those who usually struggle to get through the digital front door became the inception for digital humans. And accessibility was the earliest use case digital humans were given to solve. In fact, it was our work on Nadia for Australia’s National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) in 2017 that led to our company effectively being born.

    Another contributor to issues of healthcare accessibility is patients receiving support in the language they understand best. Digital humans today can speak over 40 languages and hundreds of dialects. While it’s unfeasible to expect this level of multilingual coverage from real people, one digital human can be taught a new language incredibly simply.

    Taking away the fear of judgement

    Health illiteracy is an incredibly widespread problem. Realistically, billions of people worldwide – even those in countries with world-class healthcare – may not receive the care they need because they don’t know they need help.

    Perhaps the most damaging and compounding issue is that those who have poor health literacy are some of the least likely to seek help from a professional, too – because of a fear of judgement.

    We naturally fear what we don’t know, so can be too concerned to seek help. Many people are concerned about wasting a health professional’s time, or decide their issue is too trivial, choosing instead to self-diagnose (and mis-diagnose) using online search engines and the like. The fear of judgement is perhaps most common when it’s in regards to delicate healthcare matters, like mental health and physical ailments patients may find embarrassing.

    Again, some of the most vulnerable parts of society are some of the least literate when it comes to their health. Some of the key contributors to health illiteracy include:

    • Poor access to education
    • Limited proficiency in the English language
    • Cultural barriers
    • The use of medical jargon,
    • And disabilities such as cognitive decline and learning difficulties.

     

    Digital humans in particular have had great, proven success in this field. One of the pioneers of this was Ellie, who was created by researchers at the University of Southern California to help provide judgement-free support to veterans returning home from active duty. Ellie’s very nature as “non-human” (and clearly non-human to those she was treating) made them more likely to disclose information to her that would help clinicians identify signs of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    Our own health advisor, Sophie, is designed to have a similar impact around COVID-19 during the early days of the 2020 pandemic. With so much information and opinion floating around the web, Sophie was plugged in to trustworthy sources of information, like the CDC and WHO. People asked her questions they may feel too embarrassed to not know, like “what is coronavirus”, and then receive guidance on how to stay safe.

    The healthcare burden of loneliness

    The last issue we would point out as a particular strength among digital humans is the ability to combat the issue of loneliness. 

    It’s hard to quantify exactly how detrimental loneliness can be on people’s health. One study shows loneliness among older people has the same negative impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. And it’s a cyclical problem: loneliness can cause significant health issues, which a lack of personal care can compound into a greater feeling of loneliness, and therefore greater health issues.

    Not only does it affect health outcomes – both physically and mentally – it puts undue strain on the medical industry. Three in four GPs say they see as many as five patients a day who are simply suffering from loneliness. One in every 10 GPs say they see between six and 10 of those suffering from loneliness.

    Financially, Harvard research estimates that this lack of social contacts among older adults costs Medicare $6.7 billion a year – mostly on hospitalizations and nursing for those suffering.

    While there are deep-seated issues that cause and compound loneliness, and no technology can hope to put an end to it, the sophistication of conversational AI is helping somewhat. With virtual assistants, people have someone to speak to. In chatbots like Woebot, they have a text interface to chat to should they wish. In digital humans, people suffering from loneliness can have a conversation with an AI that can show warmth, empathy and friendliness in its speech and expressions – as real people do.

    Australasian mental health app Mentemia uses a UneeQ digital human as a sleep coach to its users. People get a guided sleep plan, administered through conversation. And what’s more, the digital human is a lifelike virtual twin of New Zealand rugby icon Sir John Kirwan, whom people can speak to like they would the real JK about his playing career and more.

Other industries we work with

Right now, UneeQ digital humans are working in the banking, education, telco and retail sectors to name just a few. Everything from their appearance to their personalities are being co-designed to create the most positive, lasting impact on users.

Banking & finance

Digital humans are helping banking and financial services organizations scale, all while putting amazing customer experiences front and center.

LEARN MORE

Retail

In-store or online, digital humans make retail about interactions, not just transactions, creating memorable, omnichannel customer experiences that keep users engaged.

LEARN MORE

Telco

Conversational AI-powered digital humans are making waves in the telco industry, putting memorable interactions (not just transactions) at the center of the customer experience.

LEARN MORE

Digital humans in healthcare: A solution for today, not just tomorrow

The advance of AI has led it from the realms of science fiction into that of research and development, and more recently into building functional use cases for using AI in healthcare. But healthcare needs to be more than functional, which is where experiential AI solutions like digital humans are thriving.

In a nut-shell, digital humans are the only solution that can combine the efficiency and convenience of automation technology with some of the personal connections provided by real medical professionals. And they do so while helping to solve some of the biggest modern healthcare challenges – workforce skill gaps, loneliness, a fear of judgement and a high cost-to-serve.

UneeQ digital humans are employed all over the world in a range of healthcare scenarios. And our form of conversational AI couldn’t be simpler for healthcare providers wanting to take that all-important first step. In fact, if you already have a chatbot, you’re well on your way to employing your first digital human.

If you’re yet to launch such a technology, not to worry; we’d love to hear how we can help get you started.