VentureBeat ran a story by Kia Kokalitcheva about the health technology startup Wellframe. Wellframe is designing mobile apps that assist people to better manage chronic illnesses. It doesn’t appear that the Wellframe health apps are conversational at this point, but they seem to me to fall into the virtual assistant category. They aim to collect and understand data about the patient’s health situation and then design a program specifically tailored to the patient’s needs.
After a patient is diagnosed with a condition, like a cardiac issue, the patient is matched to a clinical program designed to assist him or her in having a successful rehabilitation. Knowing what to do and when to do it can be confusing for someone facing new health issues. And it’s difficult to stay in touch with busy physicians and get personalized attention. The Wellframe app is a kind of stand-in for a physician’s assistant, offering daily to-do lists that help the patient focus on things that will improve his or her health outcome. The app can also send data about the patient’s regime and physical statistics to a central server so that the patient’s doctor can keep an eye on things through a web dashboard.
The Wellframe app can’t be used without an official activation code provided by the patient’s physician. It’s about extending the reach of the physician / clinician, not about simply providing a self-directed health app.
Now imagine an app like those designed by Wellframe, but integrated into a general virtual assistant like Google Now, Siri, Dragon Mobile Assistant, Cortana, or others. How powerful would it be to have an intelligent assistant that you can talk to and that can speak to you as well, that can prompt you with speech or a text message to take your medication, or encourage you to take your daily walk and provide friendly kudos when you’ve done so. If you’re not sure if it’s okay to have that salty treat or eat another helping of eggs, you can just have a quick conversation with your assistant about it. If you’re doctor isn’t available when you’ve got some basic questions, you can talk to your assistant and either get the answers, or have the assistant update your doctor’s dashboard with details about your question and a request to get back to you.
It’ll be interesting to see if these specialized apps can become integrated into the basic layer of more general voice-enabled, conversational assistant apps. These types of super-deep domain expertise are what’s needed to take today’s virtual assistants to the next level.