IBM Watson Health

Humana Insurance and IBM Watson Are Building a Virtual Assistant for Navigating Healthcare

Health insurance giant Humana is launching a chatbot powered by IBM Watson’s conversational AI to give personalized assistance to people with health and dental insurance provided by their employer. Humana using the IBM Watson Assistant for Health Benefits marks a major milestone in the growing healthcare AI market, which has accelerated in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting demand on the healthcare industry and its ancillaries.

Humana AI

Navigating insurance can be confusing and frustrating enough that people will even delay seeing doctors to avoid it, according to IBM. The point of Watson Assistant for Health Benefits is to supply all answers to any questions people have about their insurance so that they understand what benefits and costs they have and how to best procure the care they need. The 1.3 million Humana Employer Group medical and 1.8 million dental members will be the first to have access to the AI in the form of a chatbot. The virtual assistant will answer questions about health plans, and estimating costs when asked, while applying what it learns about the insurance plan member to shape its response to be more personalized and accurate to the specific circumstances of the member. Watson will also aid Humana employees when a member calls, gathering information so that the employee can better assist the caller.

“Humana is excited to team up with IBM Watson Health to help our employer-customers and their employees better manage their healthcare benefits and costs through a more innovative, personalized experience,”  Humana segment president Chris Hunter said in a statement. “At Humana, we strive to use technology to better serve our members with simple and convenient healthcare experiences. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence fused with embedded analytics in the Watson Health platform, we can help our employer-customers, members, agents and broker partners enhance their knowledge so they can all make more informed decisions.”

Doctor Watson

Watson has seen an uptick in healthcare-related use. The platform is supporting virtual assistants like CERi, created by the National Health Service of Wales to answer the public’s questions, in both English and Welsh, while the Royal Marsden in England set up a Watson-based virtual assistant for use by employees. The AI is also employed for insurance as with Fukoku Life Insurance in Japan or car insurance service  VAIOT has integrated IBM’s Watson Assistant into its new platform for finding and selling car insurance. Healthcare chatbots, meanwhile, have proliferated rapidly over the last year. They are used for sharing accurate coronavirus information and help determine whether someone needs to visit a doctor, reducing the load on the overstretched medical system Orbita’s interactive AI, Microsoft’s customized templates, and dental software developer Awrel’s chatbot have all helped triage patients during the pandemic. Humana, with Watson AI as support, will introduce a lot more people to the concept of AI-based healthcare planning.

“Navigating our health coverage without the right support can potentially serve as a barrier to care. An AI-enabled conversational agent that is trained to understand health plan benefits logic can play a role in helping to simplify complex or possibly confusing plan information,” IBM Watson Health general manager Paul Roma said in a statement. “We are proud to support Humana in leading the effort to deploy conversational AI to help enhance and improve the consumer experience.”


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