Speech Readies Healthcare for ACA Requirements

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intelligent virtual assistants (IVAs) would drastically change their interactions with electronic medical records (EMRs), also called electronic health records (EHRs). Sixty-five percent believed that IVAs might be able to deliver more precise and timely data that could boost care and notify them of missing information in a patient's EMR.

This bodes well for the budding IVA market. The market was valued at $352 million in 2012 and is expected to climb to just over $2.12 billion by 2019, reflecting a compound annual growth rate of 30.6 percent, according to analysts at Transparency Market Research. Clearly, the future of the IVA market looks bright. And its growth is not limited to healthcare providers—insurers are taking advantage of IVA technology as well.

In March 2014, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City (Blue KC) implemented IntelliResponse's virtual agent technology platform to use with its Ask Us Web self-service solution. By providing self-service and knowledge management, the IVA enables the insurance company's nearly 1 million participants to ask questions and receive answers about coverage, billing, or policy questions using natural language.

"Members expect to be able to find information about their insurance plans online," said David Lloyd, CEO of IntelliResponse, in a statement. "With IntelliResponse's Virtual Agent technology, Blue KC is empowering its members with effective and highly engaging digital self-service tools. This enables Blue KC to manage the high volume of questions they receive in a cost-effective manner, better understand the needs of their members, and continually enhance the online experience."

While Blue KC has deployed a Web self-service solution, IntelliResponse's natural language platform can work in contact center environments as well. And it's not the only company competing in this space.

Interactions, another IVA provider, enables healthcare insurers to route, authenticate, and provide self-service options to customers. "Of all the industries that we serve, we see this huge need in healthcare to get people to the right place or help them out with automations," says Dan Fox, the company's marketing manager. "You can do a lot with automation without having to talk to an agent, or when you talk to an agent, you can make sure it's [an] agent who has the specific skill set to serve the customer."

Interactions' conversational systems use a combination of human-assisted understanding and an automatic speech recognition (ASR) engine. In 2013, Interactions licensed AT&T's Watson speech technology, which includes natural language processing and ASR. Fox says that healthcare is quickly becoming one of Interactions' strongest verticals. The company counts two of the top 10 largest healthcare insurance providers as clients, including one that has 35 million members. Companies such as Humana use a 

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