We started Opt Health in 2019 as a telemedicine platform for optimizing men’s health through proactive and preventive medicine protocols, including hormone therapy and sexual health.
When the Covid-19 pandemic landed here in California in mid-March, we were getting close to launch but decided to put Opt Health on hold because the onboarding process requires an in-person visit between our licensed practitioners and our clients and we felt it both tone deaf and logistically challenging to launch during those times. The same week, a physician friend of mine in San Diego that knew about Opt Health called to inquire whether it might be possible to use our platform to see patients, at a social distance. Like many physicians and other healthcare workers, he was very concerned about his own, and his staff’s, direct exposure to patients that may have an active Covid-19 infection. Within days, several of his physician friends and colleagues also wanted to use our platform for the same reason.
We saw a massive opportunity, not only from a business perspective to repurpose portions of our technology to create a new product line, but more importantly, to meaningfully contribute to the global fight against the coronavirus pandemic. We decided to build a Covid-19 telemedicine solution called StreamMD that allows licensed physicians to screen, treat, and test (we have access to FDA EUA home-collection test kids) patients while minimizing community spread, mitigating person-to-person infection, and reducing unnecessary and inefficient overflow of patients in emergency departments at hospitals.
The addition of Alexa Skills to our telemedicine platforms is impactful for both our doctor and our clients. From a client perspective, the Alexa Skills will facilitate better health outcomes by encouraging compliance with medical instructions and guidelines. With the use of HIPAA-compliant Alexa Skills, we will have further capability to communicate protected health information (PHI) including messages from providers, specific medication reminders, patient journal entries that can be read by their doctors, medical suggestions based on their blood work panels, discuss sensitive issues such as ED and hormone imbalance.
In the current iteration, not using HIPAA-compliant Alexa Skills, we created conversational dialogues using natural language for our clients to become educated on health tips relating to their specific wellness goals that were formulated by our physicians.
From the doctor/provider perspective for both Opt Health and StreamMD, we learned that improved patient compliance with the doctor’s orders not only improves patient health outcomes, but impacts the overall health system in positive ways. Non-compliance is expensive because patients have to come back to the doctors without achieving positive results. It creates time waste and inefficiency in a system where resources are already stretched thin. Our technology is also in the process of being whitelabeled for use with internal medicine and family medicine practices, where the Alexa Skills will provide additional value. In these practices, patients are often rushed out with a pile of paperwork and a couple months later they're still in the same spot. They are overwhelmed by the documents and often do not read them. An Alexa Skill would facilitate the digestion of this information through the use of natural language and conversation, which many patients prefer over reading and will also save the providers’ time from repeating information that was already communicated.
Our doctors will be recommending Alexa to their patients after the consultations or visits for this educational information, as well as reminders for follow-up instructions. Typically, patients want to follow their doctor’s orders; however, they do not if they are overwhelmed or the information is overly complicated. We believe the Alexa Skills solve this issue by simplifying and clarifying that information.
Further, in the internal medicine arena, there typically is no insurance reimbursement to providers for these follow-up communications. The more they can be streamlined, the better.
In sum, we believe that Alexa Skills will help generate better health outcomes in our double-sided network of patients and doctors. We see a world where physicians use Alexa as another tool in their toolkit to improve care and outcomes, and patients are happy to comply because of ease of use and the enjoyment of better health.
We built our Alexa Skill by creating a slot for patient goals and mapping various tips for the patient’s goal. We used four sample annotated dialogs to create a model that drives the conversation toward understanding the patient’s goals and the number of tips they’d like to receive. One of the challenges we faced was that our desired invocation name “Opt Health” would not be recognized by Alexa. As a solution we updated the invocatio name to “Health Optimizer.” We also needed to add a fourth dialog with all of the API arguments collected in one utterance, which allowed our model to work!