Artificial Intelligence and Healthcare: It’s here but is it ready?

Summary, a 4-minute read: this covers the emergence of Artificial intelligence bots — like Alexa from Amazon — and how they are starting to be used in healthcare. But the challenges are as long as a python — from privacy to cost, customization to making it relevant. We all should know by now that AI is another industry-changing technology.

Once you study it, the concept of “Beyond-the-pill” seems one-dimensional. But to apply it to a patient app it seems a bit premature. Or is it? What is in the market now?

The AI tipping point has occurred, driven mostly by Alexa/amazon and Google Now. But people already use their voice-recognition software in their smartphones now. Just look at the landscape chart in this post and you see that there is no one leader, nor singular technological approach to AI (full chart at end of post). In a recent study by SoftServe/CD Data, the investment in AI is accelerating:

And on the adoption/satisfaction curve  MindMeld did a study of smartphone users level of adoption/satisfaction with their current use of voice-recognition:

While the chart may be hard to read, let me spell out the dramatic findings — especially for such a nascent technology:

  • More than 50% of respondents have tried voice assistants
  • More than  30% are “regular users” (daily or weekly)
  • 50% of those who use the assistants are “satisfied” or “extremely satisfied” with their experience
  • 20% consider themselves dissatisfied with the technology

So, the first chart showed the investment tipping point, but this last finding demonstrates the “human” tipping point:

  • 60% of the respondents said they adopted IA in the past year (40 percent within the past six months)

But the landscape is overwhelming; the early stage of applying this voice-recognition/machine-learning daunting to any Biopharma company looking to use AI for, let’s say, patient adherence, or providing a “Past-the-pill” solution. What is in the market now worth looking at?

Recently, I conducted a analysis of AI health apps for a chronic condition. For so many chronic conditions, especially for data-paranoid Biopharma companies, it is pretty clear that AI apps are at a very early-stage development and adoption. There’s Welldoc,HealthrhythmsCogito, and many others being tested in a variety of clinical environments. Though each is amazing, it is early for them.

On the more “mature” end of the spectrum, you can have Watson from IBM customize a part of its software for a dialog/voice active and passive recognition app; but perhaps farthest along in the Biopharma space is NextIT AlME Health Coach Bot. Not only has it been adopted by Biopharma — TEVA Copaxone being the most dramatic in-market example — it is winning awards and is so highly customizable it may be the best answer for really providing value to patients beyond trackers and other one-dimensional apps, toss-away apps.

Consider the facts of this award-winning AI App:  AlME Health Coach Bot (YouTube video here) uses brand-approved content to shape into an AI Health Coach Bot dialogue, one that offers real conversation and learns from what you say to it!


There is so much to say on this topic, it is too much. But to conclude: if your brand or clients are asking about “We want a REAL app that engages our patients because that last one stunk” then look to NextIT first. They have proven what others are still testing.


Just to put an exclamation point on why healthcare should dabble, but not adopt as of yet, the chart below says it all: too many choices, directions, unproven ground. But each organization needs to have some ear to the ground, a group that looks into these technologies on a regular basis. Pay attention, or you’ll miss the idea that goes Beyond-the-Pill to true help in the form of AI.


Thank you to MindMeldSoftServeVB Profiles and IBM for not just supplying meaningful content, but for being the evangelists and change-agents we need.

Enjoy Watson!


Artificial Intelligence and Healthcare: It’s here but is it ready? was originally published on Harbinger Associates

Does Biopharma “get” the role of caregiver? Do any of us really market to their needs? Ask 65 million people. (Part 1 of 2).

Summary: 65 million caregivers. Their role is often undefined, undeserved and undersupported. Are we as marketers, and as human beings, missing out on a key audience and the opportunity to engage with a key Influencer? Caregivers challenges are formidable — there must be ways to help. While this is an ever-growing part of the population, we as brand marketers in healthcare need them on our side — or rather, we need to be at their side!

Remember, when your branded treatment needs to be part of the conversation, a caregiver may be your best sales force! 

So, best advice: don’t reinvent the wheel. Check out the numerous existing resources (some examples in this post) before developing any strategy; look to partner for credibility and to tap into an already existing expertise. People are already doing it right: learn before you spend.

Let’s look at a recent study by AARP . In a recent study by AARP* titled “Valuing the Invaluable 2015 Update: Undeniable Progress but Big Gaps Remain”.

Here are some startling facts (with an infographic to add depth):

  • Family caregivers in the U.S. provided 37 billion hours of care
  • This is worth an estimated $470 billion—to their parents, spouses, partners, and other adult loved ones in 2013.
  • The total estimated economic value of this uncompensated care provided by the nation’s family caregivers surpassed total Medicaid spending ($449 billion), and nearly equaled the annual sales ($469 billion) of the four largest U.S. tech companies combined (Apple, Hewlett Packard, IBM, and Microsoft) in 2013.
  • 74% of workers at some point during their career provide care to a loved one.
  • Approximately 18% of caregivers say they are “highly strained” financially because of their care giving responsibilities.
  • 1 in 3 have no help at all, paid or unpaid, the report found.
  • In the U.S. alone, 65.7 million people provide care to an older adult.

Let’s not lose sight that these aren’t numbers, they’re humans. Armies of human beings, individuals, each with their own needs and story. This is what lies behind the numbers. Let’s use these infographic from 101 Mobility to show the burden of tasks and time:

What does this mean to marketers? First, if you are going to address and engage with the caregiver as a branded treatment, study all the current digital and offline resources available —,, even the BMS

More on what are good resources to research to help define your marketing strategy in Part 2 on Caregivers. (Part 2 later this week!)


Thank you to: Thank you to AARP for doing the good work we as a society need.

*AARP “Valuing the Invaluable” 2015 Report.

Does Biopharma “get” the role of caregiver? Do any of us really market to their needs? Ask 65 million people. (Part 1 of 2). was originally published on Harbinger Associates

The “Periodic Table of Storytelling”, an amazing resource for a strategy we all should embrace

Storytelling by employees, patient advocates and patients themselves who just feel compelled to share…this is a fundamental strategy that Pharma, ACO’s, Hospitals, need to use NOW to break down the barriers between their customers/patients and the inherent regulatory and cultural limitations they have to deal with.

As an example, Pharma which has a terrible reputation (undeserved, complex and not black and white), should be the first category to stop creating non-authentic, non-emotional, advertising and create credibility and connection through storytelling. It is a gravity point for human-2-human communications and connection. Unlike MLR fears of QOL promises gone amok, the fact is, patients just want to hear a “real” voice to relate to. Authenticity would do wonders for Pharma Brands. It is one reason why Pharmacists trust levels are rising.

But there are so many types of stories! Luckily, there is not a condition in existence where there is not someone who has a passion for how they suffer, how they live, how they treat – activate this! The classic hiring of Snow & Associates patient Advocates for on-the-ground events is little more than minor league storytelling, it is playing small.

Below I am sharing the “Periodic Table of Storytelling.”  This is a great tool and guide for inspiring and organizing storytelling content. Play with this tool – you will be amazed and inspired.


Storytelling periodic table  4.22.14



Please use the link to interact with the Table:

Let’s just take Pharma companies…the troika of authenticity and credibility would be stories told by: employees, patients/caregivers and scientists. This covers a range of passions, missions, journeys — all the stories people crave. And for MLR, you can make it branded if you just do not allow open field feedback.

I have asked this before: what would happen if you gave an entire Brand digital experience over to storytelling by the troika I mention above? In oncology this would be ground-breaking. It goes “Beyond the Pill” which is the use of service as a ways to both support the patient and practice — but in a way, while important, it is often functional support, not personal, human or emotional support, which at the heart of loyalty, an issue of evermore crowded therapeutic categories.

Can this be done? Would a Brand be brave enough? Could it be a true differentiated in message that breaks through the clutter of all the data and noise?


The Doctor Will See You Online Now

In past posts, we've written about patients having assistance from and access to all kinds of people in the healthcare system, including nurses, pharmacists and other patients. Now, as reported in the Wall Street Journal Health Blog on Thursday, the Rubicon has been crossed. Patients are now able to have an immediate consultation with a physician online.

According to the Journal, A patient who wants an online doctor consult can log on and get
something approaching a complete doctor visit, often without waiting.
The doc can review the patient’s record, make a diagnosis, write a
prescription and make a referral, all online. Patients without a webcam
can talk to the doctor on the phone.

Now, there are obvious limitations to this. An online physician cannot do an examination, really diagnose anything new, or act on anything besides what the patient tells him. That being said, there are an awful lot of times when a patient just wants a quick answer, or a suggestion, or a referral. This system will do that.

It's significant that the system will not necessarily connect patients with their own physicians. Instead, patients are connected with any of a pool of physicians who happen to be online at the time they place their call. The drawback, of course, is that the physician to whom they will speak is a complete stranger, and knows nothing at all about their individual condition. The benefit is that a new perspective may unearth something the primary care physician has missed. And, in any event, the online physician's notes on their consultation with the patient are forwarded to the primary care physician, so the loop is always closed.

One of the many reasons physicians, particularly primary-care doctors, are increasingly dissatisfied with their profession is the incredible infrastructure required to practice medicine. In today's system, you need a pretty significant staff to handle paperwork, to process patients, to do all the preliminary stuff so you spend the well-known and precious few minutes with every patient.

In order to avail themselves of this, your patients need to schedule an appointment, get themselves to your office, wait (and wait and wait and wait), get gone over once in an examining room by a nurse or another member of your staff, and then finally, having run this gauntlet, they get to talk to you. Your staff has to spend legendary amounts of time handling paperwork and dealing with insurance companies in order for the physician (and them) to get paid for all this.

It's more than a little like iTunes. Remember the old days? You had to get in your car, drive to the store, find the record you want, buy it, get into your car and drive home, and then listen to it. Very convenient for the retailer, but a real pain in the neck for consumers.

Online consultations with physicians promises the same kind of benefits. More than anything, it's a great way for patients to keep engaged with their treatment. This is particularly important when dealing with a chronic disease like MS or lupus, where it's absolutely vital that the patient continually manage a condition.

It's another fascinating example of technology being used to enhance, improve and support the engagement of patients and their conditions. The Sound of Inevitability

AGENT SMITH: Do you hear that, Mr. Anderson?
Agent Smith grabs Neo in a choke-hold, forcing him to look down the tracks, the train's headlight burning a
hole in the darkness.
AGENT SMITH: That is the sound of inevitability.

From the film The Matrix

Yesterday, in The New York Times Magazine, there was a story about a new web site called The story, which may require registration to read, is here. When reading it, you should mentally accompany it with the sound of inevitability, whatever you deem that to be. A relevant excerpt:

Tere are a little more than 7,000 Todd Smalls at PatientsLikeMe, congregating around diseases like Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis (M.S.) and AIDS,
all of them contributing their experiences and tweaking their
treatments. At first glance, the Web site looks like just any other
online community, a kind of MySpace
for the afflicted. Members have user names, post pictures of themselves
and post updates and encouragements. As such, it’s related to the chat
rooms and online communities that have inhabited the Internet for more
than a decade.

But PatientsLikeMe seeks to go a mile deeper than
health-information sites like WebMD or online support groups like Daily
Strength. The members of PatientsLikeMe don’t just share their
experiences anecdotally; they quantify them, breaking down their
symptoms and treatments into hard data. They note what hurts, where and
for how long. They list their drugs and dosages and score how well they
alleviate their symptoms. All this gets compiled over time, aggregated
and crunched into tidy bar graphs and progress curves by the software
behind the site. And it’s all open for comparison and analysis. By
telling so much, the members of PatientsLikeMe are creating a rich
database of disease treatment and patient experience.

At almost the exact same time, in his blog, Sandeep Jauhar writes a long, thoughtful post about the looming shortage of physicians in this country.

In the face of an increasingly burdened healthcare system, one in which primary care physicians have less and less time to spend with patients, patients are beginning to take matters into their own hands. They are connecting with one another, and working together to help themselves better manage conditions that the system is not doing a particularly good job with. is just the beginning. Marketing, including relationship marketing, ultimately is only effective when it mirrors, or leverages, a bigger trend. This is one of them. A fundamental shift seems to be underway in how patients manage their diseases. And, thankfully, we are right in the middle of it.