MILWAUKEE – Aurora Health Care, one of three Microsoft partners participating in the Healthcare NExT initiative, will soon introduce an artificial intelligence-powered chatbot to its patients.
“We’ve always been an innovative organization—it’s built into our DNA,” said Jamey Shiels, vice president of digital experiences at Aurora Health Care. “We had a vision and Microsoft had the framework and tools, so we came together.”
Aurora Health Care, a nonprofit health care network of 15 hospitals, 1,400-plus doctors and physicians, and hundreds of clinics and pharmacies, plans to launch the “Digital Concierge” later this year.
Patients can connect with the symptom checker chatbot through the provider’s website, text message or Alexa voice, and converse with the bot about their symptoms and history to determine what kind of care they may need and when they might need it. Patients answer a series of questions and the bot suggests possible causes and what type of doctor they might want to see. They can also schedule an appointment right away.
“The use of AI allows us to leverage technology to meet consumers where they are—online, mobile, chat or text—and help them navigate the complexity of health care,” said Shiels.
The Microsoft Healthcare NExT initiative is an AI-focused project designed to enable health care providers to create intelligent and compliant virtual assistants and chatbots. The project aims to make compliance and complex medical vocabularies simple through a visual editor tool that the health provider can use to build and extend their bots; a variety of health care-specific configuration options; out-of-the-box symptom checker content; and easy integration with their systems.
Shiels said the chatbot is designed to augment the care provided by Aurora’s clinicians. It’s an option that patients can choose to use or not.
“We’re not going to force new technology like the chatbot on our patients, but we have always pushed the envelope in innovation,” he said. “You’re definitely going to see more of this in health care in the future.”
Other partners in the Microsoft project are Premera Blue Cross and UPMC.