Human touch meets AI on health insurance frontline

Thursday , 21 November 2019 by Alaina McGregor

Southern Cross Health Society today launched an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered digital assistant, operated by UneeQ’s Intelligent Digital Human Platform, to empower Kiwis to make the best decisions when it comes to their health insurance.

‘Aimee’ has joined Southern Cross Health Society’s team as a virtual crew member to help Kiwis with finding information about health insurance.A woman looking at her laptop screen

Southern Cross Health Society Chief Executive Officer Nick Astwick says the launch of an interactive avatar is another way in which the organisation is future proofing its purpose to empower Kiwis to live their healthiest lives.

“Aimee will play a pivotal role in helping us to be there for our members 24/7, and deliver more value to them right when they need it.”

The launch of a digital human by New Zealand’s largest health insurer also signals its commitment to technological innovation in shaping the future of the sector.

Astwick says unlike buying a new phone, for example, decisions around health insurance feel more personal.

“Other industries in New Zealand like banking and retail have been working with digital humans but the way a consumer seeks and values information about products in those sectors is vastly different.

“We understand that when it comes to health insurance, people can feel quite vulnerable and emotions come into play. People often need reassurance they are making the right choices for themselves and their families and we’ve designed Aimee with this in mind.

“Like all of our customer contact team, Aimee is empathetic, warm, natural and trustworthy,” says Astwick.

Aimee will initially focus on answering common questions such as what the value of health insurance is and how the health system works, as well as providing easy-to-understand information about insurance-specific terms like pre-existing conditions.

It’s expected that longer term, as she learns from conversations and better understands people’s needs, Aimee will provide support and guidance in response to more in-depth questions.

Southern Cross Health Society employees were heavily involved in the creation of their new colleague, including deciding on her gender, age, facial features and personality, says Astwick.

“We set out to create a digital human that was purposefully distinctive to Southern Cross. When it came down to what qualities resonated the most and what our people wanted, we landed on an appearance that we believe reflects New Zealand today. We have had anecdotal feedback that Aimee looks like someone they know and we believe that familiarity will help build trust.”

Believed to be the first health insurance company in the world to launch a digital human, Southern Cross used UneeQ’s Intelligent Digital Human Platform to design, build and deliver their digital experience. This includes brand-elements brought to life through personality, face, appearance and voice.

Innovative technology has been instrumental in the development of Aimee’s voice which uses a customised synthesised version of a human voice that is recorded in a studio. It is believed to be one of the first times this technology has been used in New Zealand.

UneeQ Chief Executive Officer Danny Tomsett says encouraging customers to self-serve via digital channels increases efficiency and can drive down cost, but people are wired for connection.

“UneeQ can create digital humans that listen, speak, show empathy and communicate in the way only humans could before. Everything from their unique appearance to their personalities are co-designed to create the most positive, lasting impact on users.

“We are so excited to be working with Southern Cross Health Society to bring their vision for Aimee to life,” says Tomsett.

Anyone can interact any time with Aimee on desktops, tablets and mobile phones.