This Robot Knows How To Communicate To Support Patients With Chronic Illness

Monday, October 21, 2019

Catalia Health’s software incorporates expertise in psychology, artificial intelligence, and medical treatment plans to help patients manage their chronic conditions. The result is a sophisticated robot companion that uses daily conversations to give patients tips, medication reminders, and information on their condition while relaying relevant data to care providers. The information exchange can also take place on patients’ mobile phones.

Heart failure patients first brought Mabu into their homes about a year and a half ago as part of a partnership with the health care provider Kaiser Permanente, who pays for the service. Since then, Catalia Health has also partnered with health care systems and pharmaceutical companies to help patients dealing with conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis and kidney cancer.

Treatment plans for chronic diseases can be challenging for patients to manage consistently, and many people don’t follow them as prescribed. Mabu’s daily conversations help not only patients but also human, as they make treatment decisions using data collected by their robot counterpart.

Robotics for change

Catalia Health uses artificial intelligence to help Mabu learn about each patient through daily conversations, which vary in length depending on the patient’s answers.

“A lot of conversations start with ‘How are you feeling?’ similar to what a doctor or nurse might ask,” the founder and CEO of Catalia Health – Cory Kidd explains. “From there, it might go off in many directions. There are a few things doctors or nurses would ask if they could talk to these patients every day.”

For example, Mabu would ask heart failure patients how they feel if they have shortness of breath, and about their weight. “Based on patients’ answers, Mabu might say ‘You might want to call your doctor,’ or ‘I’ll send them this information,’ or ‘Let’s check in tomorrow,’” Kidd says.

Last year, Catalia Health announced a collaboration with the American Heart Association that has allowed Mabu to deliver the association’s guidelines for patients living with heart failure.

The way we deliver health care doesn’t scale to the needs we have.

“A patient might say ‘I’m feeling terrible today’ and Mabu might ask ‘Is it one of these symptoms a lot of people with your condition deal with?’ We’re trying to get down to whether it’s the disease or the drug. When that happens, we do two things: Mabu has a lot of information about problems a patient might be dealing with, so she’s able to give quick feedback. Simultaneously, she’s sending that information to a clinician — a doctor, nurse, or pharmacists — whoever’s providing care.”

“In a clinical setting, if we talk about a doctor with good bedside manner, we don’t mean that he or she has more clinical knowledge than the next person, we simply mean they’re better at connecting with patients,” Kidd says. “I’ve looked at the psychology behind that – what does it mean to be able to do that? – and turned that into the algorithms we use to help create conversations with patients.”

Many studies have found that communicating with someone in person, as opposed to over the phone or online, makes that person appear more trustworthy, engaging, and likeable.

“What I found was when we used an interactive robot that you could look in the eye and share the same physical space with, you got the same psychological effects as face-to-face interaction,” Kidd says.

Source: MIT