Conversa Health


How Many Ways You Can Talk to Patients? A Conversation with Conversa Health

Feb '18
I recently spoke to Chris Edwards, Chief Marketing Officer of Conversa Health, a digital health company focused on providing smart patient communications and engagement solutions to healthcare clients. Our chat shows Chris’ thoughts about how patient engagement can be improved and what Conversa has been able to accomplish. This conversation is edited for clarity and brevity. Help me understand Conversa better about your mission and solutions

Chris: Conversa is devoted to delivering personalized, automated conversations that help deliver a better healthcare experience. We leverage our clinically-intelligent conversation platform to help transform the provider-patient relationship from one that is episodic to one that is continuous, collaborative and efficient.

We had series-A mid last year that featured a very strong strategic health syndicate. It was led by Northwell Health, which is both a customer and investor, and included Allscripts, HealthGrades, Triple Tree, and Epic Ventures. This is a group of investors who really understand the healthcare industry and what we do.

Our clients are thinking about how they can improve their condition management programs, reduce readmissions, how to drive more efficient ROI in this value-based care environment, and increase patient satisfaction and retention. The challenges are how to encourage patient and provider communications, how to use data efficiently (to facilitate such conversations), how to optimize resources such as call centers and care coordinators, and still deliver quality care. Northwell is a great example, where they have a number of patients discharged from hospitals on a daily basis. They have care navigators who can tell those patients that they can use Northwell Health Chats (which is Conversa) – this becomes an innovative and efficient extension of their communication and care. The patients receive a brief secure notification from their care team in the forms of email if on desktop or tablet, or a text message. These Chats are scheduled by the Care Teams and patients can click any time between their completions and receive an educational session. There is always an option for the patients to call the care team directly as well.

As we come alongside these healthcare organizations they are telling us that Conversa is helping them succeed in a number of ways, some of which include helping them…

  • Ensure the Provider/Patient conversation continues when the patient leaves the office appointment or is discharged.
  • Automate the patient conversations and clinical data collection. This allows care teams to focus on patients who will most benefit from extra coaching and assistance, maximizing clinical and operational efficiency.
  • Build an ongoing relationship with patients as they manage their conditions. With regular check-ins and opportunities for education and connection, our clients are telling us their patients are gaining confidence to stay on top of their health conditions.
  • Deliver a relevant, engaging experience to our patients helping them stay on track with their care plan, building loyalty and efficient communication.

Again, we are not diagnosing, but working with health systems to improve their communications with patients with efficiency. We have our own content team, and medical directors who work on supervising medical content curation. We know that the care teams we work with have thousands of patients, and they don’t need to reach their entire patient population immediately. We help the team to automate their outreach, and by focusing on only those need such a “digital checkup” dialogue at that point. We are a conversation platform with 50 different conversation programs that support 350 modules—can be COPD, diabetes, asthma, etc. Our clients can call on us to serve patients who just undergo a joint replacement surgery, or are about to receive one, and we provide this prescripted conversations with branching logic using structured data that have clinical implications. We are also leveraging patient generated health data (PGHD) and our advanced conversational AI technology to help provide insights for key initiatives like population health management, care coordination and patient engagement. Besides the clinical side, there seems to be a Marketing benefit too?

Chris: Yes. Much like we have seen other industries double down on CRM (Customer Relationship Management), we are seeing healthcare embrace this too. Healthcare strategy officers, marketing teams, and patient experience leaders are looking for innovative ways to acquire new patients, nurture patients, and deliver a more meaningful and relevant experience across the health system. Also, they are thinking about how to use their CRM system more efficiently, how to optimize their omnichannel marketing tactics, how to allocate their call center resources on the tasks that matter most – all while driving up patient satisfaction and loyalty. And Conversa’s personalized, automated conversation experiences are helping our clients across this spectrum too. CRM tools have come a long way in recent years, and as a result are increasingly being integrated with email marketing software such as Mailchimp. If you would like to learn more about contact syncing, cloud apps, and HubSpot Mailchimp integration, head to the PieSync website. Have you done anything on the prevention side?

Chris: We have clients that use our solution for wellness, prevention, lifestyle coaching, etc. For example, a client in North Carolina runs a special clinical practice focusing on a wellness maintenance and prevention experience using six wellness pillars, such as nutrition, mindfulness, sleep, spiritual wellbeing, etc. It uses this Conversa Health Chat experience to reach out to these people with educational content and insights. This taps the robust and proprietary Conversa Personalized Education Content System built into our solution to deliver the right conversation to the right patient at the right time. How do you measure user engagement of your Health Chats?

Chris: Conversa tracks a number of different data points that feed into a Conversation Engagement Index. We measure conversation interactions based on the types of programs as the engagement frequency can be different for a wellness conversation than the one for a heart condition. Additionally, we measure how many conversation/interaction sessions we serve up, how long customers spend time during these sessions, how they advance in the session, and whether they complete it. We are seeing some great engagement results. To name two: over 80% of patients felt more engaged in their care when using these Conversa Health Chats, and 72% of the patients maintained or improved in adhering to their care plan from using these Chats. Furthermore, we are seeing patients stay engaged months after initial interaction.

The fact that we are not an app to download also helps engagement. These Chats are sophisticated, empathetic and simple. They don’t require patients to write back in long sentences, just quick answers and selection of options based on tested branching logics. This simplicity is also contributing to high engagement.

Engagement also helps when you invest time in content creation. Leveraging the Self Determination Theory, Conversa’s Conversation Methodology enables us to create personalized automated conversations that are crafted to maximize the positive motivations toward good health and recovery. Do you plan to have an app eventually?

Chris: Since the beginning of the company, we have intentionally designed Conversa NOT to be an app. Does the world need another app? It doesn’t. We constantly hear from clients and prospective clients that not being another app is a strategic advantage for us. After explaining our conversational AI technology, it’s always greeted with a big sigh of relief – our secure and reliable technology can easily sync with a patient portal, clinical EMR, or a client’s app without the friction usually associated with such integration. Any success stories or ROI metrics to share?

Chris: Several examples and one is from a California health system we worked with on a joint knee replacement population. In this situation using the Conversa, we will were able to help determine that 29% of the patients were not adhering to their initial care plan. Our clinically-intelligent technology was able to pick this up and help avoid negative event, such as an ER visit. Based on asking intelligent/context relevant questions, the care team was able to intervene and help get them back on track. This contributed to 20% reduction in post-acute care costs for them. It’s been very exciting to see Conversa’s proven performance strong engagement numbers, increase in care team satisfaction and efficiency, and also clinical and financial outcomes. Who are your target customers?

Chris: Our primary customers are healthcare provider organizations that are interested in or implementing their condition management programs with a strong focus on patient engagement and experience. Pharmaceutical, payers and technology companies are also looking to experience the benefits of the Conversa Conversation Platform . One use case for Pharma is that they are interested in whether such chats can remind patients with their medications, perhaps based on user supplied data, such as blood pressure readings that consumers share through a connected device. Do pharma companies reach out to Conversa directly or through your health system customers?

Chris: Some pharma came directly to us, some were referred by our health system customers, and some came from the marketing connections I mentioned earlier—agencies that do marketing communications on behalf of pharma. These pharma companies may have an app and want Conversa inside it. Their app might have several different functions and they want the Conversa chat feature to launch a chat session with the pharma brand – this helps them with better patient engagement and can deliver more insights into their patient’s behaviors and conditions. Your customers can purchase specific conversational modules or purchase a bundled solution, right?

Chris: Yes, we are a platform-as-a-service model. Our clients can buy a license for the entire platform use, or purchase packaged intelligent conversational programs. We see clients buy a few modules to begin with, and as needs arise, they can purchase additional modules quickly. The feedback we have heard from the market is that our model is “flexible, frictionless, and client friendly.” Are you comfortable being labeled as an AI-enabled conversation intelligence company for healthcare?

Chris: Many of our clients call Conversa an “AI Care Navigator.” We, and several industry analysts, think that Conversational AI is the new UI. We all know that AI is new and people are still learning about it. We know that no two people have the exact same condition so they shouldn’t have the exact same conversation. Our conversational AI technology is able to deliver on this idea, and we are proud of this uniqueness in the marketplace. Juniper Research, in its recent Digital Health and AI report, thinks of us in this way: “Conversa is the type of company that, through their presence in the market and the kind of product they offer, have the potential to reshape the whole digital health sector. They are an AI company disrupting healthcare in a big way.” We are happy to be recognized as an industry disruptor.