Are you one of the 120 million Americans that owns a smart speaker today? Better yet, did you tell Alexa to play the Altitude Sessions podcast? What if Alexa could  also help you decide on health coverage and remind you to take your medicine? Neal Sofian shares his work on voice technology and how AI relationships can transform the healthcare industry.  


Patient. Disease. Claim. Risk. We use these words to describe the healthcare consumer all too often (guilty as charged). What if the industry took a humanistic approach to communication—talking to humans like they are…well, human. Today, the ever-entertaining Neal Sofian joins the podcast to discuss how conversational AI can change the consumer health experience. Neal’s technology is applying behavioral economics, building tailored content, and driving educated and tailored purchasing decisions. One thing we can agree on—voice technology is here to stay. How is your organization thinking about the integration of voice into your consumer relationships? We promise Neal will make you look at your Alexa device just a little differently. Strap in. The future of AI awaits. Let’s #ElevateYourHealthCareThinking.

Research Links & Show Notes:

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(00:55) We’ve just wrapped up our 4mul8 atlanta strategy group and our turning our full attention towards our Jackson hole event. 4mul8 jackson hole is around the corner, October 14-16 at the Four Seasons Resort in Teton Village. If you are considering attending, we encourage you to reach out ASAP. We have a few short weeks left of our recruiting window and don’t want you to miss out on this marquee event with other top industry executives.

(1:45) Our 4mul8 atlanta group followed our scientific formula: keeping the attendance around 50 members and allowing for fluid networking across the room and a candid approach to the challenges discussed.

(3:30) Neal Sofian joins the podcast today. Neal is the CEO of Tuzag inc. Tuzag is building an integrated voice platform that collects data on a user’s social determinants of health to better define and deliver health products to consumers.

(6:18) Neal has been in the public health space incorporating theories of behavior change to influence population health and education.

(7:30) Tuzag doesn’t seek to be an intervention between individuals and healthy (or unhealthy) lifestyles, but rather figure out how to build relationships with individuals to make changes in their life. This could include choosing health plans, understanding benefits, or even stop smoking. It’s is about building trust with a user and meeting them where they want to be met in a tone and format that works best for the individual user.

(8:46) Adoption of these voice products and services continues to expand with nearly 120 million Americans owning a smart speaker and prediction of half of all online searches to be voice searches by 2020. The adoption of smart speakers in U.S. households is growing by nearly 800% a year. The trajectory for this technology is almost startling.

(9:45) Neal predicts voice itself will become ubiquitous in how we navigate through the world, how we find information, how we purchase products, and how we relate to others

(10:30) Tuzag’s voice platform is not a hardware device or specific to an existing voice smart speaker but virtually can integrate into almost any voice speaker and also exists as middleware between endpoints.

(11:47) The future of voice technology in the healthcare industry will not necessarily excel as it’s own hardware device. Consumers value the integration of voice software into the devices they already own and use daily.

(13:20) This idea of integrating powerful communication tools into life-flow is key to voice technology being an asset within the health space. So often, the health industry delivers information and communicates through extraneous and superfluous channels that clutter and clouds the understanding of consumers. Voice technology works into the “life-flow” of a user, fluidly connecting them to the resources they need most.

(15:00) The type of data that a voice assistant in the healthcare industry hopes to gather and build from is much more comprehensive than a medical record or claims history. The data collected and exchanged spans from pet history to favorite movies or books, not just health-centric data.

(16:10) Neal walks the discussion through a hypothetical conversation. I share a few facts about myself with Neal. I like to hike with my dog, I have a social group of friends, and I love Game of Thrones (I promise I am not as “basic” as I sound). This information can inform a voice bot on how to talk about health issues or health product recommendations. The bot uses metaphors that relate to the user.

(17:29) Why does the structure of the message matter? For behavior changes to occur, messages must deeply resonate with an audience or individual. The tailoring of the conversation becomes both intimate and relevant.

(18:53) Neal sees this technology as expanding a user from a patient, claim, disease, or risk and turns them into a human. By establishing this intimate relationship, the bot has created value for the user.

(20:10) It’s not about the content of the message, which we tend to assume would be “do this” or “buy this,” but rather the structure in which the messages are presented.

(21:20) Voice bots can gather the values of a user that can be used in conversation to motivate behavioral changes.

(24:20) The status quo within the health industry is to push information. Yes, there have been some advancements in the digital channels of delivery, but the impersonal content remains the same. It often involves telling consumers what they are doing wrong and what they should be doing. Behavioral economics and theories of communication empirically support that this does not lead to positive response and behavior change.

(26:01) Successes in health communication are few and far between. Neal cites that 50% of all healthcare costs link directly to consumer behavior, yet the system has spent almost nothing on understanding and influencing consumer behavior. It’s imperative that the health system explores the potential for voice technology as a tool for patient education and consumer engagement.

(28:44) In thinking about the barriers to the diffusing of voice technology into the health industry, Neal sees foundational issues in sectors of the industry understanding the problems that need to be solved.

(29:48) Perhaps the less daunting barrier is from an employer and broker perspective. These middlemen may already be looking for the innovative solutions that can promote and healthier and more productive workforce.

(32:43) Finally, Neal sees a barrier of imagination. It will be challenging to convince health industry executives that this technology exists, but that the technology is the most straightforward part of the equation. The technology embraces machine learning algorithms and integrates behavioral economics with tailored, entertaining, and intimate content. It’s possible. It’s happening.

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