Orbita Raises $9M for Conversational Healthcare AI as Demand Surges During COVID-19 Crisis
Healthcare AI developer Orbita has raised $9 million as part of its Series A funding round led by Philips Health Technology Ventures and HealthX Ventures. The new capital will be used to expand the use of Orbita’s conversational AI platform for voice and text by medical providers and researchers.
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rapidly proliferating ecosystem of AI chatbots and voice assistants built to help the healthcare industry triage potential cases. Orbita already provided a platform for hospitals and other healthcare providers to create and customize a virtual assistant capable of answering potential patient questions and coordinating appointments.
In March, the company launched a coronavirus-specific chatbot that any of its current and potential clients could quickly add to their website. The AI can answer questions about the disease and lead a user through a quiz designed to screen them for possible infection using information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other reputable sources. The assistant then offers suggestions on whether there’s a need for further testing and treatment. Since launching, Orbita has added a new automated health monitoring service to its platform, designed to help employers ensure that employees are healthy before they go into the office.
“In a period of ten days, we created two products,” Orbita CEO Bill Rogers told Voicebot in an interview. “Working with Phillips, we have lots of ideas for conversational AI solutions. One of the things you see with COVID is that it crystallized the idea of conversational AI creating efficiencies.”
Another Orbita product, the virtual health assistant OrbitaAssist to help patients communicate with hospital staff. OrbitaAssist is used with Amazon Alexa-powered devices, but it’s been slow to grow in the U.S. because of Amazon’s concern over violating regulations. The success of the assistant in Australia, where Orbita acquired it from Deloitte, and other countries have led Rogers and his team to start exploring other options.
“We’re looking at maybe using devices besides Amazon to speed up [in the U.S.],” Rogers said. “We may have people bringing their own mechanism in.”
The COVID-19 virtual assistant narrowly applies what Orbita already sells. For instance, OrbitaAssist, a HIPPA-compliant virtual assistant that connects caregivers and patients, and OrbitaEngage, an AI-powered text and voice assistant that can help people find doctors and answer basic medical questions. The $9 million isn’t the end of the funding round, Rogers said. There may be another $2 million added before Orbita closes the round. Rogers said. Orbita has raised a total of $16.5 million since it was founded five years ago.
“The round had started before COVID hit and was just about to close before the virus hit, which caused a little bit of a delay,” Rogers said. “At the same time, we started seeing quite a bit of activity because of COVID. “We’ve had four times the inquiries [since the pandemic began], and our salespeople are swamped. Another major difference brought by COVID is the speed of deals. We are closing deals in the COVID era in just two weeks.”
Rogers said the investment will go toward bringing these and other members of Orbita’s slate of products to more clients, but Orbita isn’t the only platform using AI for healthcare during the pandemic. Plenty of medical professionals and policymakers are all looking for ways to slow the rush of calls to hospitals and doctors, whether that means integrating Hyro’s free coronavirus-focused version of its virtual assistant or adapting Microsoft’s template for the same purpose. On a national level, India and the UK have each published a WhatsApp chatbot to answer questions about the pandemic. The biggest tech companies are following suit on their own platforms, with Google Assistant offering pandemic tips, or Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa voice assistants providing their own COVID-19 questionnaire to assess potential infection.
“You’re definitely seeing an expanded vision of using voice for healthcare,” Rogers said. “The phone is having the highest conversion rate. That will continue after.”