Advances in technology have traditionally triggered changes in business. Interactive tools provided by state-of-the-art computer software mean positive changes in healthcare domain and particularly in the nursing profession. One of these positive examples is AI-based applications and chatbots, such as virtual nurse assistants, which give healthcare providers a wide scope of possibilities to improve care delivery and patient outcomes.
Virtual nurse avatars simplify the provisioning of outpatient services and increase the accuracy of monitoring patient compliance after patients leave a hospital. According to nursingworld.org, among the duties delegated to virtual nurse technology are assistance in self-care, check-ins for patients, providing clinical advice, collecting patient information, issuing hospital discharge instructions and coaching patients as they make lifestyle changes.
Could you make your own virtual nurse app and what would you need to know about the development process? Let’s start with an overview of the topic and try to find out the how of it.
Who Are the Pioneers in the Market?
Nursing as an important part of the care delivery process has evolved over the past few decades. The idea of nurses at the bedside monitoring patient vitals or assisting doctors is no longer the complete view. The advent of new technologies, such as telehealth, AI and remote monitoring tools and medical devices has changed a lot. Today’s nurses can be virtual in the literal sense of the word.
The healthcare industry is already in huge demand of solutions that will facilitate care delivery and lower healthcare spending in a society whose population is ageing and where the healthcare needs are getting increasingly complex. As a rule, growth opportunities in the care delivery sector demand significant investment, but artificial intelligence (AI) can be the driver for growth in healthcare. According to Accenture analysis, health AI applications, including virtual nurse apps, have the potential to provide $150 billion in annual savings for the US healthcare economy by 2026.
So it’s no wonder that healthcare industry leaders, such as Mayo Clinic, take the chance to improve care delivery quality and patient engagement by working with developers to introduce AI solutions into the care delivery process.
There are some medical assistant apps on the market already – some of them look quite simple and provide a limited range of services, others are powerful AI-based platforms which fully replicate nursing behavior and provide care for patients and connect them with care providers. There are medical text bots, like MedWhat, that offer options to assist with medical questions & answers, daily health & wellness, reminders and follow up; and symptom checkers like Virtual Nurse, an Android app which helps to diagnose medical problems through asking questions; Urgent Care, which lets a user search symptoms using a medical dictionary and connect to a live, registered nurse who can help diagnose the issue; and VirtualNurseApp, which was originally developed for Amazon Alexa enabled devices to provide basic CPR instructions to end users.
The best known example of a virtual nurse avatar is the app created by Sense.ly. The San Francisco based startup has a fleet of AI-powered nurse avatars, including a virtual nurse app for urgent care, which is used by clinics and patients to communicate with outpatients. The avatars help prevent hospital readmission, monitor patient health, get clinical advice through interaction with the NHS 111 service (in the UK), book a GP appointment, get healthcare information using the National Health Service choices (also in the UK) and develop lifestyle behaviors to promote health.
Since the project launched in 2013, a lot of attention has been paid to dealing with specific chronic conditions like heart failure, diabetes or COPD, as the app is targeted toward helping elderly people, among other specific categories of patients, in the US and UK.
How It Works?
To create an AI-powered virtual nurse application able to work with people of various age groups, Sense.ly has developed its core, rule-based engine and algorithms based on commonly accepted medical protocols for diagnosing and dealing with specific chronic diseases. The protocols and content are provided by partner-hospitals and clinics. To enable the app to respond the patient’s intonation and mood. It is just simply an anonymous database on symptoms, Sense.ly has integrated artificial intelligent utilizing platforms like BeyondVerbal (emotions analytics tools), Affectiva (emotion recognition products), MindMeld (conversational AI for voice and chat assistants) and the like.
In his interview with TechCrunch, Adam Odessky, CEO and founder of Sense.ly, said that the app is “a cross between Siri and Whatsapp that captures signals about a person’s health.” The nurse avatar asks the patient to talk about their health through a smartphone. The patient doesn’t have to type anything, just simply talk to the virtual nurse and make a 5-minute’s check-in, which is then rolled into the medical record to be reviewed only by authorized health providers.
The nurse avatars speak to patients naturally and empathetically, which is very important for people who have chronic diseases or elderly people. The emotional analysis is also helpful as it allows the app to alert providers when it detects unusual emotional states, such as anxiety or depression, caused by certain prescribed medications and suggests that a patient may need mental health counseling.
Virtual Nurse App Development - Is It Worth the Effort?
One of the reasons why AI apps work well and are in demand in healthcare is that they can be really helpful for patients and care providers. The AI-powered avatar nurses (or Intelligent Virtual Agents, IVA) provide a new set of tools for health care delivery. They allow providers to manage patients better and save doctors time for routine check-ins for patients with chronic conditions (60 percent of American adults now live with at least one chronic condition according to RAND study). AI virtual agents also boost engagement – patients interact with an animated assistant eagerly since they feel more comfortable sharing information with a program than with their regular provider.
They improve treatment adherence rates, as their virtual consultant is available 24/7 and it is always possible to ask for advice, and they reduce costs by reducing the number of visits to hospitals and the number of staff labor hours as humans just cannot make as many calls or record as much information or analysis as the apps can.
Timothy Tuttle, the Founder and the CEO of MindMeld said that “many types of questions that patients often ask their nurses or physicians are exactly the same questions that recent machines have gotten really good at answering.” This means that the technology can assist doctors and nurses and save time while keeping them informed about patient wellbeing and needs.
Research performed by Sense.ly showed that patients like AI nurses and tend to trust machines more than people. During a 30-day trial of their avatar, Molly, in several hospitals in California the readmission rate was 5 percent lower than the control group.
What Do You Need to Build a Virtual Nurse App?
To build an app like Sensely you definitely need a strong collaboration between:
· an experienced IT development team, who knows how to develop medical software compliant applications with all corresponding regulations
· a hospital IT team, who knows the protocols and standards used by the provider
· healthcare professionals, who can provide you with all the medical knowledge necessary to build the database necessary for virtual medical assistance
· some thirds parties who already have AI platforms which can be used for the desired app features
Vladimir Tutov, Senior Project Manager at Archer Software said:
“The length of the development process will for sure depend on the complexity and features of the app. Such projects usually involve a lot of innovative solutions and are quite knowledge-intensive. That’s why Sense.ly has been developing their app for a several years. On average a development team can create a virtual nurse app within 18-20 months, provided the above mentioned collaboration with a hospital IT team and a healthcare experts are available.”
Archer Software is a premier software development company, partnering for success with the most dynamic and successful start-ups and enterprises across various areas of the economy, including healthcare. Our portfolio includes successful solutions for healthcare providers and professionals, such as MDChat, a mobile app for HIPAA-secure online communication platforms developed for Mobile Health One. Inc.; the HealthOutcome app providing injury treatment ratings for common injuries based on real-patient experience; and Medwatch, an iOS app for online health tracking that provides patients with helpful services.
Contact us to get more information on AI-powered solutions for healthcare and our team of IT professionals will consult with you on how you can streamline your facility operations, improve patient outcomes and boost patient engagement using state-of-the-art IT technology.