At Opus Research’s recent Intelligent Assistants Conference, I ran into Ann Thyme-Gobbel and Charles Jankowski from 22otters. 22otters offers an interesting mobile app that provides a virtual health coach for patients preparing for a routine medical procedure. Currently the app is designed to support people preparing for a colonoscopy. Anyone who’s had one knows that the prep is the worst part of the whole experience. So who wouldn’t want a health coach to help you get through it?
22otters can adapt their virtual coach to support a whole range of medical procedures. But let’s take the colonoscopy prep as an example. The health coach assistant provides a complete checklist of steps to guide you through the preparation process. Each step is plotted on a calendar based on your appointment date and time. The health coach proactively alerts you when each step in your regimen needs to begin and uses voice commands to explain what you need to do. For example, on the day prior to your procedure, the assistant tells you to drink only clear liquids from now on until the procedure is complete.
If you need specific instructions on how to prepare your laxative concoction, the health assistant will walk you through the steps using both voice explanations and helpful graphics. The app also provides alarms to remind you when to take doses of liquids or other medications. As you follow each of the steps, you can verify that you’ve completed them. Your doctor can validate your overall status by looking at a portal that shows exactly where you are in the prep process and how well you’ve kept to the instructions.
You can take your health coach with your wherever you go and ask it clarifying questions. Procedures such as a colonoscopy are complicated for the patient, but all the steps are routine. It’s extremely helpful to have all the information in an easy-to-use health coach app, rather than having it in static paper handouts. The proactive alerts help to ensure that you don’t miss a step or forget something important in the process. Having the virtual health coach also reduces your need to pick up the phone and call the doctor.
Thyme-Gobbel and Jankowski showed me another app called HerStory that offers breast cancer patients an opportunity to record audio clips about their own personal experiences. Users of the app can access these crowdsourced survivor stories to receive encouragement and helpful tips from other women who’ve gone through the same experience. This “share you story” feature could potentially be added to any of the health coach apps.
I can imagine a whole range of routine procedures where both patients and healthcare providers could benefit from a health coach. Detox protocols offered by practitioners of functional medicine come to mind, as well as procedures that patients need to follow after certain types of surgeries. As intelligent assistants become more specialized, the virtual health coach offered by 22otters shows how a focused use case can offer lots of compelling benefits, in this case to patients and healthcare providers.