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Managing Chronic Conditions With Your New Best Friend, The Virtual Health Assistant

Autoimmune Disease Management via Virtual Health AssistantThe list of medications, supplements, diet restrictions, exercises and doctor appointments goes on and on for those of us with a chronic condition.  Most weeks, I feel as though managing doctor visits alone is a part-time job.

Helpful technology options abound — apps, wearables, smart phone reminders — and if you’re in Austin or another tech city, no shortage of hipsters flaunting them right and left. But the tried-and-true post-it note and handwritten food diary may be where many of us are, in between dropping the kids off and putting in a load of laundry.

I’ve written about how I’m using health tracking to find the root cause of my gut issues and autoimmune fatigue in my health tracking/quantified self and best wearables for autoimmune posts.

But what if an app could do all of that… AND answer your questions about side effects (from a medical expert), call the doctor to schedule your next appointment, and then call up your favorite playlist for your morning walk?

Enter the Virtual Health Assistant

The one I saw at SXSW Interactive 2015,  in an artificial intelligence + medical care panel, is called Alme, a virtual health assistant developed by NextIT, a company based in Spokane, Washington. Alme is a physical trainer, nurse and personal assistant all in one, via some powerful technology and a group of smart medical experts.

The best way to understand (and be amazed) is to watch this video of “Sara” and Richard in everyday life.

Alme is a natural language app where you can talk to “Sara” and she responds as though human – think Siri, but more like the 2013 movie “Her”. This app will help you schedule doctor appointments, remind you about your workouts and most importantly, help you manage your chronic conditions by answering questions you may have about side effects, symptoms and medication.

The app uses artificial intelligence to learn how each individual user prefers to communicate and adapts its communication based on those learnings (crazy cool!!), so the “coach” helps motivate you, keep you on track with medication and educate you about your condition in a way that goes far beyond the wearables and apps available as of this publishing.

With the health statistics around chronic conditions and predicted doctor shortages – Alme’s virtual health assistant, or something like it, will likely become much more mainstream – and necessary, as patients need to take care of themselves and will want access to reliable medical information to help them do that.

Interestingly, in studies about using a virtual health assistant and a live nurse (whether your doctor’s nurse or a 24 hour on-call nurse), 74% of patients preferred an online nurse – maybe as a way to ask any question and not feel like it was too many questions, or that the questions would be perceived as odd or dumb, according to Thomas Morrow, MD and Chief Medical Officer of NextIT.

The app will be available from insurance companies for their chronic health patients, or from specialty pharmacies or physicians – health providers who have an incentive to make sure you stay on your treatment plan and take your medication on schedule.  There have been a couple of limited release versions available for autoimmune patients, but they were not made publicly available from pharmaceutical companies… yet.  Ask your doctor for this type of patient support if you think it will help you.  Many voices produce change!

Have you used a virtual health assistant of some sort?  What was it like?  Did you notice a change in your symptoms and overall health?  I’d love to hear from anyone who has personal experience here.

 

About the Author
Katie Cleary is founder of AutoimmuneMom.com.  She lives with her autoimmune conditions, family and mini labradoodle dog in Austin, Texas.

This post contains opinions of the author.  AutoimmuneMom.com is not a medical practice and does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  It is your responsibility to seek diagnosis, treatment, and advice from qualified providers based on your condition and particular circumstances.  Camino Real Ventures, Inc., the company that makes AutoimmuneMom.com available to you, does not endorse nor recommend any products, practices, treatment methods, tests, physicians, service providers, procedures, clinical trials, opinions or information available on this website.  Your use of the website is subject to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy

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