Interview

AITech Interview with Patty Riskind, CEO at Orbita

Using conversational AI, Orbita connects healthcare providers and patients. We talk with Patty Riskind about how AI is transforming healthcare.

Kindly brief us about yourself and your role as the CEO at Orbita.

I have worked in the data and analytics sectors of HIT for more than 30 years, both as an entrepreneur and corporate executive. I started the healthcare industry’s first electronic survey company, PatientImpact, which I later sold to Press Ganey, adding digital solutions to Press Ganey’s legacy paper/mail survey business. I later joined Qualtrics as the Head of Global Healthcare, establishing and growing its healthcare vertical. I’ve been with Orbita the past two years and am excited about the company’s ability to automate administrative workflows using conversational and generative AI, making access and care delivery easier for both patients and healthcare employees.

What is the primary mission of Orbita as a company and how does it drive your approach to developing healthcare technology solutions?

Orbita is a conversational AI company that acts as the connective tissue between providers and patients to make navigating healthcare easier. Our mission can be broken into five discrete components:

  • Simplify access and streamline care pathways for easier navigation​
  • Automate administrative workflows to relieve overextended staff​
  • Increase throughput and optimize revenue to strengthen the bottom line​
  • Preserve healthcare’s “personal touch” with NLP and conversational technologies​
  • Provide actionable data/analytics for performance improvement

Over the years, how has the integration of AI transformed the capabilities of chatbots and virtual assistants in the healthcare industry?

What a timely question! Orbita has long relied on AI to ensure its virtual assistants perform better than the average “chatbot.” Healthcare is an industry full of jargon and impenetrable clinical terminology. We’ve used natural language processing/understanding to empower patients to ask questions and get answers they can understand. Our platform can translate inputs such as “I have a tummy ache,” for instance, and return accurate information about gastrointestinal disorders and help patients find care from the appropriate provider or specialist. We’ve used our conversational tools and machine learning to create dialogs that prompt patients for greater details, so the information delivered meets their specific needs.

In what ways has Orbita distinguished its virtual assistant platform, and how has it integrated generative AI into its solution?

Orbita differentiates itself in several ways. For one thing, our platform and solutions are healthcare-specific, which means we support the unique vernacular, workflows, security requirements and protocols of the industry. This enables us to better understand the challenges our customers face and create easy-to-use solutions. Our solutions are often deployed to address a specific set of issues – such as ensuring that patients follow up on referrals so the health system captures associated revenue and ensures quality care – but they also have the ability to scale across the enterprise to meet a diverse set of needs. 

Our team had been using generative AI for quite some time, but recent rapid advances have had a significant impact on how quickly we can deliver well-trained and accurate virtual assistants to our customers. Generative AI enables our team to ingest and process content extremely fast. What used to take weeks or months can now be done in hours. This means we can stand up a virtual assistant – based on content verified by our customers – within a day. This reduces speed to value and overall cost. 

One of the areas our virtual assistants have had immediate impact is on call volume. With an effective and accurate virtual assistant embedded on a provider’s website, for example, that provider can deflect many of the patient calls currently overwhelming contact centers. Patients are more satisfied because they get the information they need more quickly and avoid lengthy phone tag – plus, many prefer the consumer-friendly digital experience they get, similar to other areas of their lives. 

Generative AI-powered virtual assistants also improve the employee experience, which is important in these days of staff shortages and escalating labor costs. Employees benefit because they don’t have to deal with routine and repetitive queries that can be handled just as effectively through a digital virtual assistant (e.g., “where should I park at your facility?”). This means contact center agents have more time to spend with the patients who genuinely need their assistance – a more satisfying aspect of their jobs.

What specific value does generative AI bring to the healthcare field, and how does it address key challenges in the industry?

Healthcare has been slow to adopt digital technologies because providers are concerned about accuracy and security, and because they want to maintain the personal touch that has characterized care delivery. Healthcare organizations also have tight budgets and many technology priorities. Generative AI enables partners like Orbita to accelerate data ingestion allowing us to process information from a wide variety of formats (text, video, web, spreadsheets, images, etc.). By ingesting content quickly, we can then create smart virtual assistants that allow for streamlined processes and simplified access to information. 

Our tagline has long been “automation with empathy” because one of our top priorities has been to ensure dialogs between patients and Orbita virtual assistants are truly conversational. Tools like conversational AI, machine learning and our proprietary algorithms, in addition to generative AI, help us accomplish this.

What are the three critical factors that contribute to the success of generative AI-powered tools in healthcare?

I’d like to turn this question around and address three critical use cases that are made possible by generative AI and drive greater success for healthcare.

Patient education and literacy. Healthcare is an evidence-based industry with an almost limitless repository of complex content. While patients don’t need to learn every detail, they do benefit from understanding their condition and care. Rarely, however, do providers have time to educate patients effectively. Generative AI lets organizations quickly ingest content of their choosing. Then conversational virtual assistants can deliver information to patients contextually. For example, it can get to the “why” of their inquiries (e.g., Why do I perform this step in the recovery process? Why do I need to take my medication with food?). Better education equals better understanding which usually leads to better compliance with care plans and ultimately better outcomes.

Reduce burden on customer/patient-facing staff. Healthcare relies heavily on the phone to interact with patients: to answer questions about locations and hours, for example, as well as to schedule appointments and deliver test results.

Generative AI-powered virtual assistants can reduce phone calls dramatically. Digital virtual assistants can answer routine questions based on approved content. Some experts estimate this can deflect about 80% of current phone calls. If a patient’s query is more complex, these virtual assistants can escalate to a live agent, who can digitally handle multiple patient interactions at a time. And, if one-on-one attention is required, best-of-breed virtual assistants transfer the patient to a representative. Generative AI serves as a co-pilot in these instances, equipping the representative with responses approved by the organization, delivering a full summary of the interaction and suggesting next actions.

Provider education. Pharmaceutical companies also see great benefit in generative AI. They need to impart massive amounts of information to providers about their medications, recommended dosages, side effects and more. Generative AI can help compile and summarize drug information for providers to expedite their ability to research possible treatments for patients and get reliable and actionable information at their convenience.

Apart from healthcare, what are the broader business advantages of AI-based virtual assistants, and how can they support revenue growth and overall business strategy?

AI-based virtual assistants can offer several broader business advantages that can support revenue growth and overall business strategy. Some of these advantages include:

Improved customer service. Virtual assistants can provide immediate responses to customer inquiries, enhancing customer experience and satisfaction. Faster and more accurate responses can lead to higher customer retention rates and positive word-of-mouth, driving revenue growth.

Cost savings. Implementing AI-based virtual assistants can reduce the need for human agents to handle routine tasks, leading to cost savings in customer support and operational expenses. This allows businesses to allocate resources more efficiently and invest in other revenue-generating activities.

24/7 availability. Virtual assistants can be operational around the clock, providing support to customers in different time zones – and at their convenience at all hours of the day or night. This increased availability can lead to a higher volume of interactions and potential sales, boosting revenue opportunities.

Personalization and targeted marketing. AI-powered virtual assistants can collect and analyze data from customer interactions, enabling personalized marketing efforts. Tailored product recommendations and targeted promotions can lead to increased cross-selling and upselling, driving revenue growth.

Overall, AI-based virtual assistants can provide a significant advantage in the highly competitive healthcare business landscape by enhancing customer experiences, optimizing operations, and driving revenue growth through personalized interactions and data-driven decision-making.

Can you share some insights about your professional background and experiences in the industry?

My past experience in collecting and analyzing patient experience data has informed what needs to change and how to improve care delivery. At Orbita, we have the solutions to help power that change to actually improve the patient experience. I’m very excited to deploy automation that can make a true difference – allowing patients to find and access care more quickly and easily – while eliminating redundant and often frustrating tasks for employees that work within healthcare. 

For example, one of Orbita’s clients uses virtual assistants to complete disease-specific intake forms. Historically, this medical history would be taken by a physician in person and consume up to 45 minutes during a visit. When this process is automated, the physician saves time, and the patient and provider can use their face-to-face encounter to more deliberately to discuss treatment. For this particular practice, the time savings translated into the ability to see more patients on a daily basis, adding $4 million to the group’s annual revenue. This is real improvement that benefits both the patient and the provider.

In your opinion, what are the key challenges or opportunities in utilizing AI, robotics, and virtual assistants in healthcare patient engagement? 

Some challenges:

  1. Privacy and data security. Handling sensitive patient information through AI systems and virtual assistants raises concerns about data privacy and security. Ensuring compliance with regulations such as HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) is crucial to maintain patient trust and avoid legal issues.
  2. Ethical considerations. As AI systems become more advanced, ethical questions arise – such as the appropriate use of patient data and the potential for bias in decision-making algorithms. It is essential to address these ethical challenges to ensure fair and responsible patient engagement.
  3. Integration with existing systems. Implementing AI, robotics and virtual assistants in healthcare requires seamless integration with existing electronic health records (EHR) and other software systems. Ensuring compatibility and interoperability can be complex and time-consuming.
  4. User acceptance and trust. Patients may be hesitant to interact with AI-driven systems due to concerns about accuracy, privacy and the lack of human interaction. Building trust and acceptance among patients is critical for the successful adoption of these technologies.
  5. Misinterpretation and errors. AI systems and virtual assistants may misinterpret patient queries or provide inaccurate information. Reducing error rates and improving accuracy is a constant challenge to avoid potential harm to patients.

Opportunities:

  1. Personalized healthcare. AI and virtual assistants can analyze patient data to provide personalized treatment plans and health recommendations based on individual needs and medical history.
  2. Remote patient monitoring. Robotics and virtual assistants enable remote monitoring of patients, allowing healthcare providers to track patients’ health status and intervene promptly when needed, improving overall patient outcomes.
  3. Improved patient engagement. Virtual assistants can engage patients in interactive conversations, educating them about their conditions, medication adherence and lifestyle changes, leading to better patient engagement and compliance with treatment plans.
  4. Enhanced patient experience. AI-driven systems can provide immediate responses and assistance, reducing wait times and enhancing the overall patient experience in healthcare facilities.
  5. Workflow optimization. AI and robotics can streamline administrative tasks, such as appointment scheduling and billing, freeing up healthcare professionals’ time to focus on patient care.
  6. Telemedicine advancements. AI-powered virtual assistants can support telemedicine consultations, improving the efficiency and effectiveness of remote healthcare services.
  7. Early detection and prediction. AI algorithms can analyze vast amounts of patient data to identify patterns and detect early signs of diseases, potentially leading to earlier interventions and better patient outcomes.

While there are challenges to overcome, the opportunities for improving patient care, personalizing treatment and optimizing healthcare processes make using AI, robotics and virtual assistants worthwhile. Proper planning, ethical considerations and a focus on patient privacy and trust are essential for successful implementation.

Looking ahead, what are your visions and aspirations for Orbita in the AI healthcare space? Are there any exciting developments or future projects that you can share with us?

Orbita will continue to use the latest developments in AI to deliver better solutions to our clients as quickly as possible. We see countless use cases for digital solutions – across enterprise-level health systems, within individual specialty departments and for large medical practices – all with the potential to produce significant and measurable results. Generative AI helps us to develop solutions quickly and cost effectively, so we can be as agile as clients need us to be.

Patty Riskind

CEO at Orbita

Patty Riskind serves as CEO of Orbita. A dynamic healthcare technology leader who has achieved success for companies big and small, Patty previously held leadership positions with Qualtrics (Head of Global Healthcare) and Press Ganey (Chief Client Experience Officer). A pioneer in improving the patient experience, Patty founded PatientImpact (later acquired by Press Ganey) and developed an eSurvey product that revolutionized the patient satisfaction survey industry. She received her bachelor’s degree from Brown University and earned her MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. Patty is a member of Women Business Leaders in Health Care, (WBL), Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) and the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE).

Related posts

Interview with Scott Lucas, Head of Marketing at Concentric Data Risk Monitoring Tool

AI TechPark

Interview with Kevin Brinig, Co-founder and CEO at LitLingo

Kevin Brinig

Interview on AI in Healthcare with Harjinder Sandhu, Founder & CEO of Saykara

AI TechPark