From chatbots to virtual docs: 3 ways tech can save money, improve care

More employees this year are using technology to shop for care. But most don't, and it can hit them in the wallet.

Technology can help employees find the right care at the right time in the right place – and even at the right price.

That is, when it is used correctly. People who feel sick or hurt are increasingly turning to the Internet for answers. In fact, 72 percent of Americans turn to Google first when sick or injured, or about 35 million health-related searches a day.1 This kind of self-diagnosing can lead to inappropriate triage, misuse and wasteful spending for employers.3

Fortunately, there are tools that can help employees find care that is both effective and affordable.

Consider Buoy Health, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) health assistant that can converse with employees like a doctor. The chatbot interviews patients over 2 to 3 minutes, offers them a short list of likely diagnoses, and enables them to self-triage.

For employers who offer Buoy Health to their employees (it is a buy up), the tool is embedded into their existing human resources portal and platform. In one click, it connects the employee to the company’s health plan networks and its curated programs or solutions. Froedtert Health, a partner of Buoy Health since November 2017, reports success with both aiding patients and reducing inaccurate triage.

“Buoy Health has been a great aid to our community members in determining what may be ailing them and in many cases reducing the acuity level of what is recommended,” said Michael Anderes, President at Inception Health and Chief Innovation and Digital Officer for Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, based in Milwaukee. “Their AI technology not only helps people figure out what may be the cause of their symptoms beyond a traditional just traditional web search, but more importantly, helps them determine what a good next step is.”

Buoy Health is based on mapping 22,000 clinical papers covering 5 million patients involving 2,000-plus diagnoses. It allows users to ask 35,000-plus unique questions, re-ranking the most likely causes as it goes to arrive at top three diagnosis matches.

“The diagnoses are 92-93 percent accurate, and given it is AI, it will only get better as it learns,” said Jason Lavender, vice president of employer and health plan markets for Buoy Health.

Another resource available to employees is Virtual Visits, which offers members the option to see and talk to a doctor via a mobile device or computer at any time, day or night, with no appointment necessary. Doctors can offer a diagnosis and write a prescription if needed (in most states), and it costs members $50 or less, helping provide convenient and cost effective care for treating some common health issues.

Finally, employees are able to compare health care providers based on quality and cost through a mobile app called Health4Me®. Consumers can get cost information for more than 800 medical services spanning nearly 600 medical events.  They can find out before they go precisely how much their share of the bill will be. The highly-rated app (4.5 stars on Apple) is also a fast way for members to find a nearby pharmacy or urgent care center, check their HSA balance, or request a quick callback from a nurse or billing specialist.

For more information, please contact your UnitedHealthcare representative. 

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[1] http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/01/15/health-online-2013/

[2] KELLY, R. Where can $700 billion in waste be cut from the U.S. healthcare system?: Thomson Reuters 2009.

[3] DURAND, A. C. et al. ED patients: how nonurgent are they? Systematic review of the emergency medicine literature. Am J Emerg Med, v. 29, n. 3, p. 333-45, Mar 2011. ISSN 1532-8171. Disponível em: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20825838