Southern Cross Health Society first health insurer to invest in digital human innovation

Monday , 15 April 2019 by Campbell Gibson

Southern Cross Health Society will launch an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered digital assistant later this year, in what is believed to be a world-first for a health insurer.

Built using AI company FaceMe’s Intelligent Digital Human Platform, the yet-to-be-named AI persona will offer Kiwis a new way to learn about health insurance and how it can add value.

Digital humans are interactive avatars trained to communicate with people in a way that is empathetic and personalised. FaceMe’s digital humans are equipped with machine learning, meaning they can continuously learn from conversations over time to better understand a person’s needs.

Southern Cross Health Society Chief Executive Officer Nick Astwick says the organisation is not aware of any other health insurer in the world investing in a digital human.

A laptopHe says the digital human will support the Friendly Society’s goal of empowering Kiwis to take more control of their health by creating an engaging and 24/7 digital experience.

“As the country’s largest health insurer, we have a responsibility to lead the market in providing Kiwis with innovative tools they can use to understand and make improvements to their health and wellbeing,” he says.

“A digital human can answer questions often asked about health insurance, such as how the New Zealand health system works, what health insurance can cover you for and education around pre-existing conditions. People can feel embarrassed asking basic questions, but the digital human is always patient and doesn’t judge.

“In time, the technology can be deployed into other areas, such as providing advice on products, based on what we know about our customers.”

Astwick says the human touch is incredibly important in many aspects of healthcare and the digital human will support, rather than replace, this element.

“Our digital human will be our virtual ‘crew’ member, working alongside the team to complement our day-to-day, human interactions with Kiwis,” he says.

“Kiwis have come to expect a high level of care and empathy from Southern Cross. The digital human will be an extension of these values across our digital channels.”

FaceMe Chief Executive Officer Danny Tomsett says the digital human combines cutting-edge computer vision, AI and machine learning with human-like qualities.

“No-one wants to talk to a lifeless robot that is incapable of showing empathy for you as an individual or understanding your needs beyond keywords,” he says.

“Using the power of the human face, Southern Cross’ digital human will have credible, real-time conversations with Kiwis based on tailored content and a memorable persona that can build emotional connections,” explains Tomsett.

The Health Society’s digital human will be available on desktops, tablets and mobile phones.