CatalystRx Engaging Patients With Avatars

Last week, I got to see one of the more interesting presentations I’ve seen in a while. CatalystRx presented on some of the work they are doing with a mobile application to be released later this year. The application uses an avatar (well technically an “embodied conversational agent“) to engage with the consumer. I’m not sure how well that will work with a senior population, but the technology (shown in a video demo) was very cool.

The application is based on lots of research (and designed by the people who made Happy Feet). For example, they talked about:

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      • The importance of finding the right balance between too cartoonish and too human. They referenced some Disney research about size of the eyes versus the size of the head which creates a positive memory trigger due to similarities to baby’s faces.
      • Creating a “trusted advisor” for the patient (using David Shore’s book – Trust Crisis in Healthcare).
      • The importance of the face and how it shows emotion (both human and avatar).
      • How small talk engaged the consumer and builds trust even when it’s an avatar telling first person stories.

Some of the research comes from Chris Creed and Russell Beale’s work.

Recent research has suggested that affective embodied agents that can effectively express simulated emotion have the potential to build and maintain long-term relationships with users. We present our experiences in this space and detail the wide array of design and evaluation issues we had to take into consideration when building an affective embodied agent that assists users with improving poor dietary habits. An overview of our experimental progress is also provided.

The application helps patients to:

  • Make decisions
  • Identify pharmacies
  • See prescription history
  • Get reminded about refills
  • Get information about generics and formulary compliance
  • Receive personalized interventions

Obviously, mobile solutions as a way to engage patients using a secure environment for delivering PHI is a holy grail (for those that download and stay engaged). This was an interesting and promising variation on some of the solutions out there. I look forward to learning more and seeing it once it’s fully available.

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