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Will mHealth Apps Replaced by Chatbots?

Posted on May 26, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

Michael Yuan has a great post that looks at chatbots for healthcare and uses the great headline that “mHealth apps are so 2014!” Michael makes some great points about the challenges of getting patients to download mobile health apps and to get them to engage with those apps long term. There have been very few breakout hits in the mobile health app space.

For those not familiar with Chatbots, they essentially use artificial intelligence to appropriately respond to you on your favorite chat platform (Facebook Messenger, Kik, Whatsapp, Wechat (China), Google Messenger etc etc etc). Some of you may have seen my post about the way a Chinese Health Tracker integrates with WeChat. There are some really incredible benefits of engaging a patient on a messaging platform that they’re using daily already.

I think that most people just fear that messaging platforms aren’t powerful enough to really engage the patient. They often ask, can a text message change patient behavior? If you look at the WeChat integration mentioned above, you’ll see that most of these messaging platforms are becoming much more than just a set of simple text messages. However, let’s set that aside and just think about the power of a text message.

When Facebook announced their new partner program to allow people to create chatbots on their messaging platform, I asked my friend Melissa McCool from STI Innovations and MindStile if you could change people’s behavior with something as simple as a series of text messages. Her answer was a simple, “Yes.”

Of course, the devil’s in the details, but I trust that Melissa knows about how to influence patient behavior based on her experience doing it in many large healthcare organizations. The challenge isn’t technical though. Sending a text message, building a chat bot, sending a message on any of these platforms is completely academic. My 12 year old son could do it. What’s hard is what you should send, when you should send it and to whom.

While it’s great to see technology become easier and easier, that hasn’t made the challenge of behavior change that much easier. Sure, it’s great that the patient will actually read the message the majority of the time if you send it using one of these popular messaging apps. However, that doesn’t mean that the message will be effective. We still have a lot of work to send the right messages at the right time in the right way to the right people.

The Power of WeChat for Chinese Health Trackers

Posted on March 24, 2016 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

I’ve been meaning to write this post ever since CES at the start of this year. It was one of the most impressive and interesting things I saw at CES. However, it requires a real international perspective to understand the impact of the story. Hopefully I can flesh it out for you.

While at CES I ran into a company called Lifesense (All in Chinese). I almost didn’t stop at their booth because their booth was in Chinese, but I did recognize the pictures they had and the guy at the booth came out and said hi. I try to respectful so I stopped and talked for a minute.

At first appearance I just thought they were one of the hundreds of copy cat companies I’d seen all over the Fitness area of CES. They had a fitness tracker, a scale, a blood pressure cuff, etc. I guess in some ways they were/are a copy cat company since none of those things made them special (at least nothing I could see). However, it turned out that there was more than meets the eye and there was a reason their booth and website were in Chinese.

Turns out that Lifesense was only in China. They had no US presence (although, he thought that one day they might). As someone who’s always curious I wondered how well their health tracking products had done in China. He then recounted to me that they were lucky to be major partners with WeChat and so they’d had tremendous success in the Chinese market.

This is where I got most interested. For those not familiar with WeChat, it’s the go to IM/SMS/Facebook Messenger/SnapChat/Kik/Whatsapp/etc app for China. Everyone in China is pretty much on WeChat. Plus, unlike the companies that I just listed WeChat also has a built in commerce platform and engine for running third party apps. It’s amazing to think that an IM platform could be so powerful, but WeChat has shown that it can be. You literally can order Pizza or an Uber from within WeChat.

With that in mind, building a health tracking platform on WeChat solves so many of the challenges that US based fitness tracking applications have going against them. Take for example the experience with Fitbit. You can connect with your friends and “compete” against them to see who takes the most steps. However, it can be a pain to get all of your friends on the Fitbit platform so you can compete. Plus, this doesn’t even take into account that your friend has to have a Fitbit device.

Turns out that since Lifesense has built their Fitness tracking on WeChat, they can already connect you to all your other friends that are tracking their fitness with no work on your part. That feature literally just comes built in with WeChat. That’s so incredibly powerful since the social element to health is so important.

The problem in the US is that we don’t have a WeChat. There are a lot of platforms that are trying to do what WeChat’s done in China in the US, but they still have a long ways to go. Plus, it’s hard to imagine them ever becoming the dominant force that WeChat is in China.

As usual, I think there’s lots that we can learn from other countries. I think that’s the case with simple integrations like WeChat that open up all sorts of easy doors to improving health.

Here are some screenshots of the LifeSense app in WeChat for those that are interested to see how the app looks on top of WeChat: