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Episode 20: “Conversational Business: Digital Transformation in Healthcare” with Chris Nicholson, CEO of mPulse Mobile

Chris Nicholson, CEO of mPulse Mobile, a company providing conversational AI solutions for the healthcare industry, shares how consumers are embracing the convenience and ease of digital healthcare communications. From AI-enabled responses to the use of a “thumbs-up emoji” to confirm an appointment, digital is making the industry smarter and people healthier.

Keeping a Finger on the Pulse of Digital: “Many industries moved more quickly with self-service and other digital tools. Healthcare was a tough movement to get started because of concerns around privacy and personal-health information. I just really got passionate about digital, mobile channels, SMS, secure messaging and bringing some of those capabilities into the healthcare setting. Because the feedback that we were getting in these focus groups was, ‘Why can't you just send it to me on my phone?’ That's where consumers were connected. When we did research of seniors, Medicare or Medicaid populations, they wanted to be communicated with over those devices. It was the impetus five years ago for mPulse Mobile.”

Conversational Business: “We are moving into what I call a new transformational space and what we call ‘conversational business.’ I think it’s really the next evolution of how to engage our population. The last few generations have been focused on campaign-based messaging, and we looked at things like personas and segmentation. Much of that's evolved now because we have better data. Conversational business allows us to shift from a campaign to a conversation with the ability to have machine learning and natural-language understanding response and then tailor it appropriately. So the platform responds and says, ‘Okay, Matt, thanks for letting us know you're running late. We'll notify the physician.’ All that happens within the system and within milliseconds. It feels like a real conversation; it creates high levels of efficiency and consumer engagement.”

I Got Your Number: “In a recent study, 63% of consumers prefer more of a chat-based interaction with businesses where it's more casual or more conversational because that's the way they typically engage. It's very quick and responsive; it could be a thumbs-up emoji to affirm your appointment. We have to be able to interpret all of those different types of responses… One of the first services we typically provide is a phone-number assessment where we'll process all these numbers and determine whether it's mobile or landline. Today, on average, over 75% of all of the numbers that are listed as primary are actually mobile numbers. That is mind blowing to most of our health-care partners when they get started.”

Digital Health Challenges: “One of the challenges we see is not being able to reach customers: ‘I sent a survey in the mail or an outbound call campaign, but I didn't get the response rate I wanted.’ Secondarily, I think data is still one of the largest challenges – whether it's access to email addresses, phone numbers, even mailing addresses. Keeping address information current and validated becomes a challenge. Also, the real-time nature of communication is a challenge because we want to be able to immediately send a request and consumers expect to have an immediate response. They're asking open-ended questions and expecting responses; we have to then look through the right workflows, the right APIs, the right systems to navigate that. So I think the data models around it are getting much cleaner from a consumer 360 view.”

The Bridge from Artificial to Live Intelligence: “Machine learning is the glue that holds a lot of it together… It becomes the engine to make decisions and increase the probability of success. We even look to measure what we call an activation score: the sentiment of the response, how quickly did the consumer respond to the message, how long was that response… When we look back at the content, we work through our behavioral data-science team to look at how many of the conversations we were successfully closing and then continue to refine and improve. We have a tool that allows us to respond even manually. So, if our end customer has a call center, health coaches, clinicians or a service area, we can actually shift from a machine-learning or conversational AI tool to a live agent where necessary. That tool allows us to bridge and builds a lot of confidence with our customers.”

The Future Path: “As I look forward, I think there are a few things that we can do better, like understanding and capturing preferences. I think we need to do a ton of work in that space. If we start to look near-term future and then farther future, I think voice is a really big deal. Alexa, Siri, and Google Voice capabilities have different applications in many industries from retail, financial services, healthcare, and others, and how we think of these tools or skills… Then, bridge communication services. I think it will be transformative in the app space… If I can send a text message that allows you to look at a product, select which one you want, and then actually confirm order and pay using the services on your phone with never having to download an app or get another service, you're probably going to use that path of least resistance and just stay within your message ecosystem. I think that's going to have some pretty big implications on the app development ecosystem.” 

To dive into these topics and more, check out our podcast, Reimagining Communications.