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Voice assistants, chatbots drive health insurance to new, more personal, frontiers

Satish Weber

It hasn’t been easy for insurers to provide anytime/anywhere services that also offer a personalized human touch. However, with policyholder expectations evolving so quickly these days, it is more important than ever for insurers to tackle customer demand for experiences that are convenient, personal, and accessible.

Thanks to BigTechs and market-savvy retailers, voice assistants are progressively turning up in consumers’ homes. As insurers realize the communication value of voice assistants, they are leveraging these artificial intelligence-based devices as powerful customer engagement tools with the ability to simulate personalized and meaningful conversations, according to Top 10 Technology Trends in Health Insurance 2019.

Let’s delve deeper into how to leverage AI devices as customer interaction tools.

Payers are beginning to use chatbots and voice assistants to address members’ concerns about symptoms as well as to guide customer self-care. Similarly, these tools handle insurance policy questions, helping customers better understand their health benefits.

Insurers AXA TianPing and Ping An Health partnered with Shanghai InsurTech startup The CareVoice last year to launch a symptom-triage voice assistant that empowers members to quickly access information about their symptoms and receive guidance about appropriate medical support. The voice assistant platform educates customers by providing content and advice about basic self-care while also generating efficiencies by avoiding unnecessary consultations and directing members to the most relevant and cost-effective medical providers.[1]

With the help of skills for the Amazon Echo, customers of Canadian multinational insurer Manulife can check the remaining balance on their health benefits. If they need more dental work but aren’t sure how much coverage they have left, they can simply ask, “Alexa, ask Manulife Benefits, ‘How much do I have left for my dentist?’ ” Users can also access information about financial terms with the help of the Manulife IQ feature. The payer is looking to enhance the functionality of the voice assistant by making it capable of handling claims submissions.[2], [3]

Cigna is yet another insurer taking steps in the voice-assistant direction. The firm launched Answers by Cigna, a skill for Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa, designed to educate and engage people about health care by providing instant and easy-to-understand answers to more than 150 commonly-asked health care questions. The tool enables Cigna members to understand their health plan better, efficiently utilize in-office time with their health care providers and take full advantage of their benefits.[4]

Chatbots are gaining healthcare traction, too, helping connect patients to providers and payers through efficient, cost-effective channels: mobile devices and computers. Not surprisingly, insurers are leveraging chatbots to customize sales conversations and provide personalized buying experiences for customers.

International healthcare group Bupa collaborated with UK InsurTech Spixii to explore how chatbot technology could bring a conversational dimension to their customers’ digital journey. The result is a chatbot with a user-friendly messaging interface that offers prospects a guide price before it works through a more detailed conversation that calculates a precise quote based on the potential customer’s product feature preferences. The insurer also collects customer insights from the bot via detailed real-time feedback.[5]

With the aging population phenomenon – silver tsunami – showing no sign of receding, more and more customers will require long-term healthcare and assistance. Voice assistants can be useful in this area and act as a continuous care companion for older patients. Voice assistants can help seniors contact caregivers, receive reminders about medication and other health tasks, and schedule appointments.

Libertana Home Health, with 3,000 clients in homes and senior living communities around southern California, began piloting an Amazon Alexa skill in 2017 that allows patients to use verbal commands to report medical data (such as weight, blood pressure, or blood sugar), receive medication reminders, and call their care teams. Verbal commands are boosting patient satisfaction and independence by creating a more comfortable care experience. Libertana’s voice assistant runs on technology from Orbita, a Massachusetts startup that develops software platforms that turn voice apps into valuable healthcare tools in the home, assisted living complex, or even hospitals.[6]

There’s no end in sight to the possible benefits of using chatbots and voice assistants as customer engagement tools. They enable insurers to provide convenient services that can be accessed anytime and from anywhere. Payers can also use the technologies as a cost-efficient way to quickly scale customer service operations.

As with any evolving technology, voice assistants bring their own set of risks. Insurers will need to carefully navigate the hurdles of verbal miscues as well as privacy and regulatory concerns to realize full voice assistant potential and to successfully wield the technology as a customer engagement tool. [7]

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[1] Asia Insurance Review, “The CareVoice to launch AI voice-based virtual health assistant,” May 18, 2018,

[2] Benefits Canada, “Manulife rolls out group benefits option through Amazon’s Alexa service,” Ryan Murphy, November 15, 2017,

[3] Canadian Insurance, “Consumers embrace voice assistants at CES 2018,” Andrew Lo, February 28, 2018

[4] HIT Consultant, “Cigna Launches ‘Answers by Cigna’ on Amazon Alexa,” Jasmine Pennic, March 13, 2018,

[5] SPIXII website, Case study: “How Bupa trialled the UK’s first ever health insurance chatbot to transform digital healthcare,”, accessed August 2018.

[6] mHealth Intelligence, “How One Home Health Provider Turned Alexa Into an mHealth Assistant,” Eric Wicklund, February 26, 2018,

[7] The National Law Review, “Alexa … What is HIPAA?,” Kristen Andrews Wilson, April 5, 2018,