This AI Just Evolved From Companion Robot To Home-Based Physician Helper
Intuition Robotics announced today that it is expanding its mission of improving the lives of older adults to include enhancing their interactions with their physicians. The Israeli startup has developed the AI-based, award-winning proactive social robot ElliQ which has spent over 30,000 days in older adults’ homes over the past two years. Now ElliQ will help increase patient engagement while offering primary care providers continuous actionable data and insights for early detection and intervention.
The very big challenge Intuition Robotics set up to solve was to “understand how to create a relationship between a human and a machine,” says co-founder and CEO Dor Skuler. Unlike a number of unsuccessful high-profile social robots (e.g., Pepper) that tried to perform multiple functions in multiple settings, ElliQ has focused exclusively on older adults living alone. Understanding empathy and how to grow a trusting relationship were the key objectives of Intuition Robotics’ research project, as well as how to continuously learn the specific (and changing) behavioral characteristics, habits, and preferences of the older adults participating in the experiment.
The results are impressive: 90% of users engage with ElliQ every day, without deterioration in engagement over time. When ElliQ proactively initiates deep conversational interactions with its users, there’s 70% response rate. Most important, the participants share something personal with ElliQ almost every day. “She has picked up my attitude… she’s figured me out,” says Deanna Dezern, an ElliQ user who describes her robot companion as “my sister from another mother.”
Given these high levels of engagement, the fact that users frequently tell ElliQ that they aren’t feeling well, physically and/or mentally, that they ask health-related questions and request assistance, it has become obvious to Intuition Robotics that their empathetic machine could successfully move from increasing general wellness to more directly supporting healthcare from home. And then a certain pandemic accelerated this upgrade.
“When Covid hit,” says Skuler, “we saw the opportunity to leverage this relationship that we have been creating in order to serve as the front door to healthcare services that are finding their way to the home.” A survey of Medicare-eligible seniors found a 300% increase during the pandemic in their use of telemedicine. Covid-19 also highlighted the isolation and loneliness of seniors, the focus of Intuition Robotics research, and the self-reported health-related data that users willingly shared with ElliQ. “At the same time,” says Skuler, “healthcare professionals started reaching out to us saying we are trying to engage our patients better while they are stuck at home.”
Higher patient engagement leads to lower costs of delivering care and the quality of the physician-patient relationship is positively associated with improved functional health, studies have found. Typically, however, primary care physicians see their patients anywhere from once a month to once a year, even though about 85% of seniors in the U.S. have at least one chronic health condition. ElliQ, with the consent of its users, can provide data on the status of patients in between office visits and facilitate timely and consistent communications between physicians and their patients.
Supporting the notion of a home-based physician assistant robot is the transformation of healthcare delivery in the U.S. More and more primary care physicians are moving from a fee-for-service business model, where doctors are paid according to the procedures used to treat a patient, to “capitation,” where doctors are paid a set amount for each patient they see. This shift in how doctors are compensated is gaining momentum as a key solution for reducing the skyrocketing costs of healthcare: “…inadequate, unnecessary, uncoordinated, and inefficient care and suboptimal business processes eat up at least 35%—and maybe over 50%—of the more than $3 trillion that the country spends annually on health care. That suggests more than $1 trillion is being squandered,” states “The Case for Capitation,” a Harvard Business Review article.
Under this new business model, physicians have a strong incentive to reduce or eliminate visits to the ER and hospitalization, so ElliQ’s assistance in early intervention and support of proactive and preventative healthcare is highly valuable. ElliQ’s “new capabilities provide physicians with visibility into the patient’s condition at home while allowing seamless communication… can assist me and my team in early detection and mitigation of health issues, and it increases patients’ involvement in their care through more frequent engagement and communication,” says in a statement Dr. Peter Barker of Family Doctors, a Mass General Brigham-affiliated practice in Swampscott, MA, that is working with Intuition Robotics.
With the new stage in its evolution, ElliQ becomes “a conversational agent for self-reported data on how people are doing based on what the doctor is telling us to look for and, at the same time, a super-simple communication channel between the physician and the patient,” says Skuler. As only 20% of the individual’s health has to do with the administration of healthcare, Skuler says the balance is already taken care of by ElliQ—encouraging exercise, watching nutrition, keeping mentally active, connecting to the outside world, and promoting a sense of purpose.
A recent article in The Communication of the ACM pointed out that “usability concerns have for too long overshadowed questions about the usefulness and acceptability of digital technologies for older adults.” Specifically, the authors challenge the long-held assumption that accessibility and aging research “fall under the same umbrella despite the fact that aging is neither an illness nor a disability.”
For Skuler, a “pyramid of value” is represented in Intuition Robotics offering. At the foundation is the physical product, easy to use and operate and doing what it is expected to do. Then there is the layer of “building relationships based on trust and empathy,” with a lot of humor and social interaction and activities for the users. On top are specific areas of value to older adults, and the first one is healthcare. There will be more in the future, anything that could help older adults live better lives, such as direct connections to the local community. ”Healthcare is an interesting experiment and I’m very much looking forward to see what else the future holds for ElliQ,” says Skuler.
Seen on Forbes (Innovation): Article Link