If there’s a master list of tech buzzwords somewhere in the world, “intelligence” would be pretty near the top. Mike Hilton, chief product officer of healthcare tech company Accolade, is well aware of that.
“It’s one of those overused terms,” said Hilton, who was previously co-founder of expense management company Concur. “People start throwing around the buzzwords quickly. Data science and machine learning and all those things.”
But Hilton says not all applications of intelligence are cliched or over-blown, and healthcare is absolutely an area where a little more intelligence could be useful.
On Tuesday, the company lifted the veil on its intelligence platform, showing how it’s using artificial intelligence to guide users through the healthcare system. The company also publicly announced its new mobile app, which takes advantage of that technology to help personalize customer experiences.
Accolade, which splits its headquarters between Philadelphia and Seattle, offers a “healthcare concierge” service that helps customers navigate their benefits and use health resources most efficiently.
“We’re trying to do for healthcare consumers what companies like Amazon and Netflix have done in their respective industries, where people get very different experiences that are relevant for them and valuable for them and lead to the ideal outcomes from them,” Hilton told GeekWire. “For me, it really comes down to personalization and recommendations, that’s very much what we’re trying to do here.”
Hilton said the company’s new intelligence engine, called Maya, helps figure out how much and what kind of help Accolade customers will need based on their demographics and healthcare history.
If a young, healthy person joins the service, Maya will sense that they probably need a low-intervention approach. The platform might point them towards Accolade’s online tools or a third-party service that could help them stay healthy.
If an older person with a chronic condition joins the service, Maya might flag them so their health assistant can reach out to have a more in-depth conversation. From there, they might work with one of Accolade’s staff nurses to decide what resources to use.
Hilton says Maya also helps Accolade address a big problem in healthcare: fragmentation between services. The average person uses a variety of services like primary care doctors, specialists, and wellness plans, and it can be hard to keep them all on the same page.
“It’s a big challenge in healthcare, particularly for employers,” Hilton said. “One, how do you bring all this data together? And two, how do I make my employees and their families aware of all these great benefits and get them to utilize them?”
Hilton says the overall goal of Maya is to make sure each person is getting a service that will help them use their healthcare resources most effectively, both to stay healthy and to keep down costs.
Accolade’s new mobile app also gives users a new way to interact with their health assistant through built-in messaging.
“People really love the asynchronous nature of messaging, we can all relate to that,” Hilton said. “To have someone you can actually message while you’re at work and have a one or two-minute break, we think it’s a really significant step forward in efficiency and a delightful experience.”
Accolade’s health assistants can help answer questions about billing and claims, set up appointments and help users generally navigate the healthcare system. Accolade’s on-call nurses can also advise users on what services are appropriate for certain situations — for example, deciding whether to go to urgent care or the emergency room.
Hilton said being able to use those services and share documents via a mobile app is a marked improvement on having those conversations over the phone, which is still the industry practice for most healthcare services.
The app has been in a pilot testing among select Accolade users for the past few months and has been getting good feedback so far, Hilton said. It is now available to all Accolade users as an iOS and Android app.
Accolade is currently helmed by Hilton and CEO Raj Singh, the co-founders of expense management company Concur and longtime leaders in Seattle’s tech community. They joined Accolade in 2015 and established a second headquarters in Seattle. The company was founded in Pennsylvania in 2007 and maintains its original headquarters there.