'Alexa For Health Care': New Virtual Assistant Helps Patients with Cancer at Home

August 8, 2020

WellBe, a new voice-enabled virtual assistant, can remind patients with cancer to take their medication and keep them on track from the comfort of their own home.

A recently released voice-enabled virtual assistant, known as WellBe, provides patients with cancer an opportunity to manage their care schedule in between visits with their oncologists.

“It’s like an Alexa for health care,” said Dennis Boone, chief consumer marketing and sales officer at HandsFree Health, in an interview with CURE®.

HandsFree Health, which develops the voice-enabled virtual assistant WellBe, was created by a group of four health care executives to offer individuals easy access to medical answers from the comfort of their own home through the HIPAA complaint platform.

Recently, Boone spoke with CURE® and discussed how WellBe works, how it can benefit patients with cancer and how people can find the device.

CURE: Can you walk us through how WellBe works?

Boone: So, WellBe is a voice-enabled virtual health assistant. The voice assistant is delivered through a smart speaker that is designed and manufactured by HandsFree Health. We also have a smartwatch, which is an emergency alert device that looks more like an Apple Watch, rather than the traditional lanyard worn around your neck.

WellBe works similar to other virtual assistants. There's a wake-up function for WellBe (“Ok WellBe…”) and then you can ask your question. Unlike other virtual assistants, you can ask WellBe about something like allergies or medications and it will use that question and pull information from its curated health database. So, if you're asking a question about any medical condition, you’re going to get an answer from a database that has been created by health care professionals. Unlike searching the web, this is going to give you accurate information to those questions. That's the database side.

The other side is the medical benefits connection. So, the user can enter the information on their insurance card, very similar to what they would present if they went to a doctor’s office. You can then ask WellBe what your copay for a specialist visit is, or how much of your deductible you have spent this year. It’s specific to your coverage, meaning if you ask about your deductible it is going to give you a specific answer.

Another aspect is lifestyle. We’re helping people live a healthier life and helping them to stay on top of their doctor's orders. The user can set medication and appointment reminders, and users can enter their health information, so if they are a certain gender or a certain age, they’ll be reminded to get a colonoscopy or maybe a mammogram.

It also reminds the user to take their medication, and it’s going to confirm if you have done that. You can put the reminder on sleep but after you've done that once, it's going to notify a caregiver that the user hasn’t taken their medication.

You mentioned the reminders to take their medication and to get a colonoscopy or mammogram, but could a patient experiencing side effects from their cancer treatment bring that up to WellBe?

Through all of this, obviously the best advice comes from your doctor. We're not trying to replace a doctor who is giving medical advice, but it can help answer questions a patient has. It can answer questions about something that may be happening as it relates to a certain chronic illness or a disease they’re managing. The management of chronic care is front and center with making sure patients are adhering to their specialist visits and making sure that they're scheduling their doctor's appointment.

WellBe will even remind the user about an upcoming appointment and provide information about the nature of the visit. There’s a statistic that shows a shocking number of people never follow up with a specialist visit recommended by their doctor, this device is designed to address exactly that.

For patients who might be wondering, how could WellBe benefit them in their cancer journey?

WellBe is going to do a few things, and the first is, it’s going to provide companionship. It's going to become a rock the patient can lean on through their medical journey. Going through cancer can sometimes be isolating, and friends and family may not be going through the same thing they are. There are support groups through care partners, but WellBe is going to be there to understand their schedule and understand their medications and provide them with accurate answers to medical questions. WellBe even provides pet health information to help patients take care of their pets and service animals.

The second thing is management. Managing chronic conditions is one of the largest hurdles that people have. And this is going to make that management a little easier.

The third thing is keeping the user connected. Most people who are going through something like cancer, have somebody that's going through this care journey with them; maybe it's a caregiver or it's a spouse or child, but WellBe provides caregiver notifications to give them a little insight into where the patient is, and how they’re managing their health. The caregiver will be automatically kept in touch with that person's care schedule right on their phone.

What are some unique features to WellBe?

We have many unique features, but I will highlight three, two of which are patent pending. You can register and set up a WellBe device from anywhere, you can even connect to someone's Wi-Fi. Let's say your mom is going through cancer treatment, and she isn’t the most technically-savvy person. She can push a button on the device and will get a code and you can do the rest from your app, from your couch. You can be in a completely different state. You can set it up and enter her doctors and her pharmacy, her medications, and you can even connect it to her Wi-Fi.

The second feature is related to artificial intelligence used to determine the intent of a question, but it’s really about privacy and security. We use voice recognition to recognize a patient's voice. Up to six people in a household can use WellBe. People like to interact with devices, and maybe they want to ask it to play a song or ask it a general knowledge question. They can do that. But when it comes to medical questions, information about medication, or anything that involves medical information, either a PIN code is required, or the device recognizes the patient’s unique voice characteristics. Even in their home, that device is keeping their medical information private.

And the third is that we're HIPAA compliant. Unlike other smart devices, where anybody can create a skill, WellBe is completely closed-sourced and completely proprietary. And because of that, we can be HIPAA compliant. And when you're dealing with medical information, when you're dealing with chronic care, especially with cancer, that's a very important factor in making the user feel comfortable that their journey is not being shared.

How can people go about getting WellBe?

The first is through our website. So, they can go to shop.handsfreehealth.com and order it right there. The other way they can buy it is through one of our retail partners, the most prominent of which is Walmart.com.


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