Dr. Chatbot or AI meets the Botniks

I recently read an article about the National Health Service in England beginning a collaboration with a digital media company to build a Chatbot that can interface with patients.

One of the biggest issues in the British Healthcare System is how long a patient waits to see a doctor and in parallel with that wait, how much of their time doctors spend diagnosing and dealing with relatively simple repetitive issues and basic information transfer.

With artificial intelligence and a chat bot that can take care of doing the routine and mundane tasks of a first-line general practitioner, the physician is freed up to concentrate on the more challenging medical issues her patients face.  Welcome Dr. Chatbot.

a version of a Dr. Chatbot circa 2012

a version of a Dr./Chatbot circa 2012.

Here are a few of issues this quasi medical newcomer must address:

  1. Human like – Studies have shown a higher utilization rate of the tools when there is a more human-centric response. Terminals at a human’s height are most effective. Think of the banking industry deployment of digital assistants in branch.
  2. User Experience – combining big data synthesis and human comfort to hone in quickly on the real problem underlying how the patient presents.
  3. Compliance – it is a well known fact that clinical trials have a high, 50% or higher, fail rate because of failure to “follow as directed.”  This leads to the need for human interaction and a true human intervener to ask the questions listen to your concerns and yes, touch your hand to improve compliance.

The Hawthorne effect is a well documented phenomenon of improved results because the subject knows they are being watched. There is a new startup company called Hawthorne Effect looking to do just that. They are providing  human interveners with the hopes of providing better and more accurate results in clinical trials.

The premise is a sound one in that trusted human professionals go out to patients who are in need of real time real personal interaction  and focused follow up. The patient  may need a reason to see the trial through completion or to “take as directed” the actions or medications to improve efficacy as well as accuracy.

The potential for widespread health breakthroughs with the Dr. Chatbot concept comes from the underlying technologies of machine learning and artificial intelligence.  Newer studies are showing that there are predictors of disease that show up statistically before any one human doctor is likely to reach the diagnosis. The ability to provide an alert to a physician and do the high end mathematical permutations that lead to better and earlier interventions holds tremendous potential. But it will be the user/patient experience that determines compliance. I hope the tech people creating these machine driven interfaces pay particular attention to the human experience (or user experience -as the new discipline is called). Jeff Pulver has called for a move away from the term Chatbot to the more hip, creative and human like Botnik.

Indeed, we need to think of them as Jeff does, ““Botniks are creative, artistic, & rebellious just like the Beatniks” The time is right. There is a shift in thinking from what might work to how elegantly we can begin to deploy the tools. We have entered an era of intense focus on AI, machine learning and robotics and the best winners in this emerging category will be those that enhance the human experience.

Full disclosure: I am a cheerleader for and investor in Hawthorne Effect. I am betting that the human creative can direct the machine and not the other way around.

Busting Stereotypes – Bankers & Bikers

B&M monthly column by Keith Spiro

Also known as Being seen, Being heard and Being found – for all the right reasons.

Bankers & bikers bring certain images to mind. Some are not flattering and others are not exciting. What do you think of when you see that leather jacket with colors on the back?

Bikers, or more correctly ‘motorcycle enthusiasts’ come from many walks of life. What members of United Bikers of Maine share is the love of the open road, all drivers educated in safe road etiquette, and the protection of motorcyclists rights. Educate not legislate is one of their themes. They aren’t looking for a lot of attention but they would like to increase their membership among the younger riders who are not affiliated but could benefit from the experience of seasoned riders who care beyond just themselves.

UBM is a motorcyclist rights organization celebrating many years of providing camaraderie, education and events across the State of Maine; a group with whom you can go out and ride while raising funds for community non-profit organizations.  This past month a few folks from UBM’s Sagadahoc County chapter got together and in less than an afternoon raised nearly $1,000 for Maine Children’s Cancer Program. They’ve done similar things for local food banks. They help kids and families and the less abled.  They are not alone. There are chapters across the State of Maine – one for each County. This is home and they aim to make things better for their neighbors as well as their fellow riders.

Down the other end of the rail line, down Boston way, Eastern Bank just celebrated its 200th anniversary with a big kickoff party. Keith Spiro Photo Eastern Bank Join us for GoodThey are the oldest and largest mutual bank in the country. Banking and the movement of money has seen tremendous change. There’s a whole new generation of wage earners that may have never stepped into a bank except perhaps online. Eastern, like UBM would like to draw from that younger more diverse universe of potential customers who could benefit from associating with a group of seasoned bankers who care beyond just themselves.  You see, mutual banks are owned by their depositors.  They don’t have Wall Street shareholders looking over their shoulders for big ROI. They can call their own shots and this bank has been doing that for years through the Eastern Foundation. They take actions that other types of financial institutions might not want to or be encouraged to take.

When the CEO of Eastern bank walked into that kickoff event wearing way cool shades and a leather jacket, he gave off the air of someone you pay attention to and don’t mess around with.  From those two stereotypes of bankers and bikers, he announced “Join us for Good” a program already reflected in their actions as a bank operating within the communities they serve. At a time when community stakes have never been higher, this bank, like those bikers, simply let the world know the actions they were taking and then followed through. Check out just how many groups Eastern Foundation helps with funding. In 2016 they gave $7 million across 1600 non-profits. On average, they donate 10% of net profit annually to community non-profit organizations. Look at the demographics. CEO Bob Rivers noted both in his report. Smart move.  If you want to appeal to younger people, you need to show with actions and not words, where your heart is.  Time, attention and focused actions speak louder than words.

So, about busting those stereotypes! You and your organization can do the following:

Understand how others perceive your organization (rightly or wrongly)

Know that people develop those attitudes based on unchallenged perceptions

Take action that yields visible results – a motivated team can do wonders in short periods of time

Learn what your community cares about and if you are community centric, do those good deeds and make a bit of noise about it. It’s OK. As the motorcycle community says, “loud pipes do indeed save lives (on the road).  There are lots of distractions, alternate facts and shiny objects out there that can put you at risk. Take action and invite others to pay attention for all the right reasons.

Trust

Boston & Maine connection post on TrustDoes your business engender trust with your customers and your vendors?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this word trust lately. It was a pivotal word influencing the outcome of the national election. It also played prominently across all the presentations at Xconomy’s recent conference, What’s hot in Boston Health Tech.  Boston contains a high concentration of expertise in health, research and digital/mobile technologies. The whole concept of precision medicine relies heavily on shared data moving quickly away from protected silos.

Healthcare is ripe for disruption. A consistent theme across the presentations was how the use of technology can cut through duplication, waste and bureaucracy.  The stats on current drug efficacy, for example, show that at best any number of them fall off before the 50% mark for a variety of reasons that also includes “failure to take as directed.”  Would you invest in something that only has a 25% chance of being successful? Perhaps you might when it comes to cancer treatment but not in most other areas of health. Yet, patients are forced to play healthcare roulette every day.

Who do we trust most? Who do we trust least in the health arena?  For many, Facebook holds greater sway over us than our health insurance providers.  Yet, it is these very same providers that are driving Telemedicine.

What does it say about our society when we appear comfortable sharing our personal HIPAA confidential information freely on social media channels but run into roadblocks due to regulatory or HIPPA compliance threats.  Is there a misplaced sense of trust as we share personal aspects of our lives on the very networks that are scraping this information for future use?

Because of the constraints on information flow between researchers, attending physicians and patients (and exacerbated by vested profit centers), we overspend and under deliver on health outcomes.  The patient, of necessity, became the keeper of all data. How good are you at maintaining the continuity of your health records?

How about a different approach? One where patient outcome is the measure that provides payoff to all involved?

Check out Iora Health and its Co-Founder and CEO Rushika Fernandopulle. Rushika Fernandopulle CEO of IORA HealthHe imagined and has delivered Patient-Centric Healthcare and the results are impressive.  I met Rushika when he first started out –nearly 7 years ago. His small team was looking for business cards and print communication tools for his fledging organization. Now there are more than 22 practices, spreading across the country with hundreds of employees and thousands of patients served. Trust runs high when you know your physician’s compensation is based on your health outcome. Decision making and health coaching are in sync. Trust takes time and relationship nurturing.  The results are real with documented reduction in cost and better health outcomes.

Build trust for your business and use new approaches.  Imagine ways that your smart device can help build that trust. It’s important to do so. Tools like Skype and Zoom can put you face to face with a client and eliminate the issues of distance in real time.

One note of caution. Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose.  Don’t let it be damaged by failure to be vigilant in protecting your reputation. Address issues immediately.  Build a community of supporters around you and share openly and timely. You can’t orchestrate a business plan in a real time world. Be flexible, transparent and authentic. Always.  The media landscape has changed dramatically. The old ways of old school PR and marketing and master planning are overrun daily by the instantaneous nature of communication across individuals not hindered by editorial boards, rules or restraints. Consider your past achievements but grow your real time resources.

from my recent series of posts:

Inspiration + Communication + Validation + Trust = A Seat at the Table

Focus Filtered Fluid #my3words

Focus, Filtered & Fluid  (My Three Words for 2017)

Way back in 2006, when I was struggling to hold it all together in a corporate world heading off the rails, a guy by the name of Chris Brogan quit making New Year’s resolutions. Instead, he chose three words he would use as a guiding principle for the year. I didn’t know it back then but within just a couple of years our paths from Maine would begin to cross regularly in Boston. Back in that first year of new actions, the words he chose were: ASK. DO. SHARE.

Like a beacon, they prompted him throughout the year to Ask more questions and ask both to help as well as ask for help. He got good at sharing what he learned and in that sharing our paths crossed and I’ve replaced resolutions with actions ever since.

In 2016, my words were:

  • Community
  • Communications
  • Commerce

And it made a huge difference in what I accomplished. But the real time web cuts no slack. Were you caught off guard by the 2016 political outcomes? Everything and nothing surprised me about the presidential elections. Talking heads got it wrong. Strategists missed the mark. Alliances now shift loosely and widely, driven in large part by spontaneous combustion on social media.  It is just so clear that we now live in a real time world that adjusts and disseminates new information rapidly. “Expecting the unexpected” doesn’t even begin to explain what is happening.

So for 2017, as we roll into uncharted territory, don’t agonize over deep analysis. Just “DO IT.” Stay nimble and your business can thrive.  My three words to guide me through 2017 are appropriate for the times and the challenges ahead:

  • FOCUS
  • FILTERED
  • FLUID

Focus – Yes, we each still need a plan of where we are going and what we want to accomplish in a year.  Having a written plan allows you to check in regularly and see if you are on target. And, in today’s world – when your target has moved – you get to readjust how to approach your new day.

Filtered – I have too often gone to the internet to search for something specific and found those shiny objects and distractions that divert my attention and send me down rabbit holes from which I emerge dazed, sometimes hours later. Have you ever gone onto Facebook or searched on Google for one thing and found yourself unexpectedly somewhere else? Fight back by organizing your time. Let the filters of search do their job and just bookmark those other things for later.

Fluid – I am learning to recognize that Google and Facebook are not my friend. They are advertising engines designed to hook me and sell me something. There is no such thing as free. Time is our most valuable possession.  When I come up against a time zapper, I am going to flow around it like water and keep going. This will not be easy. But instead of screaming into the phone “operator, operator, get me a human,” or pounding “0” a few times, I’ve learned to recognize that I am dealing with a computer algorithm not a person. I’ve learned to hang up – call the customer service line and ask- in a calm voice – for help from the human that answers in real time.

wc_my3words-bots-dsc_0003_keithspirophotoWe will hear lots about Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Chat Bots in the coming months. They are taking over. No – actually – they have taken over. Most of us just haven’t thought about it that way yet. Think speech recognition and that lovely voice that offers to help you with your account; those friendly helpers with names like Siri (Apple), Julie (Amtrak) and Alexa (Amazon) that stand sentinel between you and a real person. Those are the entry points to chat bots. They save time for the business at the other end. They do repetitive tasks and they are going to eliminate millions and I do mean millions of jobs. More than will be created by new technologies. We can’t stop this process change and so, for that reason, I am going to be fluid – and simply work around the obstacles that are thrown at me – in a creative way (because we have that over bots)  and I will keep going.

I hope you do the same. Let’s make 2017 a great year!

(originally published in The CRYER January 1, 2017)

A Seat at the Table

cryer-bm-seat-at-the-table

Do you stress over getting a seat at the RIGHT table? Are you suffering from FOMO? This post was inspired by dinner on an overnight train to celebrate our wedding anniversary. We were seated with strangers just north of Baltimore but found ourselves celebrating dessert with these randomly created new friends in Washington DC, without ever getting up from the table. This is a rare occurrence. More likely, these days, we’d do an online search for information about a person before we’d meet with them. Our opinions shaped, not by what they say, but by what others say about them.

KeithSpiroPhoto of Jeff Pulver #MoNage interviewing Jack Dorsey

Jeff Pulver #MoNage interviewing @Jack Jack Dorsey co-founder of Twitter

I’ve just come back from MoNage – A conference looking at the age of messaging as communications on the internet. My friend, Jeff Pulver, has been exploring the future of communications with some of the best thinkers, active innovators and disruptors on the planet. Presenters came together from as far away as England, Israel and New York as well as a couple of well known locals in Boston.

Keith Spiro Photo Chris Brogan & Christopher Penn at Jeff Pulver #MoNage

Local favorites Chris Brogan and Christopher Penn share a conversation onstage at #MoNage Behind the humor were amazing insights of change since they co-founded PodCamp some ten years earlier.

Remember the 1960’s? Back then, AT&T made it possible to reach out and touch someone. Nobody is really sure just how to go about doing that today!  With so many social media platforms and tools, we are all a bit unsure as to how to find our connections let alone feel confident that they have even seen our messages.  Jeff Pulver says that  Facebook today is the AT&T of the 60’s  but also that we have become a society of swipe to the right – where one can block somebody online or unfriend them with just a simple hand motion. Doesn’t say much for relationships but it does seem to create a forum for incivility and bullying.

Let’s face it, marketing has changed dramatically. Chris Brogan and Chistopher Penn, two giants in the world of digital communications and messaging, co-founded PodCamp ten years ago. Ancient history that became part of their wild and wide ranging conversation on stage about the changes in media and community.  As I see it, going back those ten years, everyone had access to the same amount of space, gated mostly by the size of the screen with which a viewer went online. Podcasts were unique with radio-like portability.  Today, portability is the device in our pockets. There is an explosion of ways people communicate. What’s formal? What’s a chat between friends? How do Millennials differ in their use of communication tools at work and with friends?

Social media platforms have moved to a pay to play model with Facebook and Google dominating and owning so much data, they can control how to dole it out and at what price. Since brands can’t be sure of how they’ll find us, they pounce at every opportunity. The more primitive forms are via remarketed ads and social media “suggested posts & tweets.”

Overall, there is a sense of desperate overload; too many platforms, too many places where you might find your prospects or your friends. How many apps do you need just to get access to the people you regularly talk to, if you even call it that anymore?

To be effective, marketing must be real, trustworthy and transparent. We are more likely to listen to our peers than to any marketer’s message. Brands are learning this. We all need to be aware of how our “likes” are being used.

These days, “The Google” knows all. It has an answer to nearly everything and it has the ability to match up our search patterns with marketers.  This makes us complicit in the skewed results we see. We each live in our own personal bubble of internet search serving up only things that we are likely to click. If we like something, we will only see positive things about it. If we dislike someone, we will only see negative things about them.

With all the online access points and nearly 2 billion people on Facebook, there’s a false sense of anonymity. But just a quick google search for my name yielded 395,000 results in less than half a second. How do you fare? Have you done a search for yourself online?  Try it.

Our future is fully dependent on the digital reputations we build daily. This is not necessarily the reputation we want to have but the one that more correctly reflects the expectations of the seeker. The one thing we all want in life and in business is acceptance. A virtual or real seat at the table.

Inspiration – reflections on Inspirefest Dublin Ireland

inspiration for ks wordpress site cover

I had the pleasure of traveling to Ireland and participating in Inspirefest. Held in Dublin, Inspirefest is a unique international festival of technology, science, design and the arts. Founder Ann O’Dea puts diversity and inclusion at the festival’s heart, and the ratio of women to men is a refreshing change from the still massively male dominated tech world. This is directly in line with Jeanne M. Sullivan and Astia, the group that originally invited me to the Emerald Isle. Sullivan is Chief Inspiration Officer at Sullivan Adventures and a long-time investor in people, while Astia is a 501c3 dedicated to diversity in leadership.

The photo above is Ellyn Shook, Chief Leadership and HR Officer, Accenture Global professional services company incorporated in Dublin. Accenture is the world’s largest consulting firm with over $31 Billion in revenue and operates in more than 120 countries. Her theme was empowerment and diversity leads to breakthrough results. Similarly, Judith Williams, Global Head of Diversity at Dropbox demonstrated how Dropbox with more than 500 million users is also changing the rules.

Judith Williams, Global Head of Diversity, Dropbox changing the rules with more than 500 million users

While attending Inspirefest, I was part of a strategy panel entitled Thinking Big Enough to Scale Internationally. Our panel consisted of Anne Ravanona (moderator), CEO Global Invest Her, Paris, Eilish McCaffrey, Growth Strategist iOT and Digital, Silicon Valley, Emily Brady, Business Advisor, Growth Strategist & Supply Chain Optimization Expert, Dublin, Corinne Nevinny, Angel Investor, Non Exec Director, Los Angeles and Andrea Clausen, Senior Business Analyst, Google, Dublin. As a business strategist, I drive community success using the power of social media and the real time web, and I was excited to demonstrate that these tools and methods translate easily and globally.

In addition to witnessing the continued power of digital communication, I also had the opportunity to discover new business incubators in person and meet with entrepreneurs in, and just outside of, Dublin and Galway. I met Eoin Costello, co-founder of Startup Ireland, who filled me in on Digital Dun Laoghaire, a small town a half hour out of Dublin with a big project, and saw how the Bank of Ireland has taken a breathtaking leap into the future of banking, transforming old structures and ways into a true leadership engagement.

Surrounded by the drama of Brexit and the increasingly contentious US election process, I found it refreshing to be able to focus on business and only business. Ireland has rolled out the welcome mat, with groups like IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland bursting with excitement at the prospect of expanding business in Ireland. Connecting entrepreneurs to resources is the key to job growth anywhere and is now a global imperative. Do you have an interest in manufacturing? Ireland has some strong connections for you, and good entrepreneurial leaders know to take advantage of gaps and disruptions to drive success.

I’ve talked previously about validation. If Validation is the culmination and recognition of all the work that goes into launching a business, then Inspiration is both the starting point of an enterprise as well as the fuel that keeps you going through the rough spots. There is no better way to be inspired than to surround yourself with cheerleaders, advocates and strategists who can expand your thinking and help turn that business idea into a reality. Pull enough good people together around a great idea, and you can change the world.

Validation

validation post teaserThe Boston and Maine Connection – Validation

Validation, the independent corroboration of your mission by one or more individuals who make you feel like you’re not out there all by your lonely self as you drive toward your business goals.

It takes a lot to put yourself out there in the public eye to expose your business and vision to the harsh realities of finance where revenue meets the road and survival and additional funding is based on how likely others believe you are to succeed.

In the startup and entrepreneurial ecosystem – there are some amazing events throughout the year that let you check the pulse and the pace of business against your peers. The other night I attended the New England Venture Capital Association’s (NEVCA) annual award ceremony which recognized many top notch entrepreneurial endeavors at a major kick up your feet and celebrate event hosted at the House of Blues in Boston. wC_DSC9872_©KeithSpiroPhotoWith a standing-room-only crowd cheering and celebrating the startup business life cycle from launch to exit, there was a whole lot of validation taking place.

The NEVCA works to make Massachusetts the best place in the world to start new companies: building relationships among founders and investors; amplifying the voice of Massachusetts’ entrepreneurial community.  With 700+ venture capital professionals from 80+ firms, its members collectively manage more than $50 billion in capital.  With this type of financial and geographic density, even Mainer’s feel the draw of the Boston ecosystem.

wC 20160518_203205_©KeithSpiroPhotoIf Oscar’s so White was the glaring failure of Hollywood to pay attention to diversity and changing interests, The NEVYs awards were the exact and most energetic opposite. The Stars of the startup world and the disruptors of old line business processes run like a posse in a rather exciting ecosystem of mutual support and recognition.  No better validation that you are on the right track than to be in a room filled with like-minded people who take the time to cheer you on. Everyone wins in an environment that builds up their peers and where barriers to entry begin to  appear low because of the sheer magnitude of cheerleaders and available expertise.

The train from Maine runs in both directions  and not surprisingly, I’ve meet several startup leaders traveling southbound.  Maine readers might also recognize former local reporter Dylan Martin who now works in Boston as a media maven for BostInno and who I caught up with after he went riding the mechanical bull.  Boston knows how to party. We even imported our best friends from IDAireland Stephen Mullan & Aimee WilliamswC_DSC9999_©KeithSpiroPhoto

My wife’s favorite shop in Bath Maine is Pitter Patter, children’s clothing.  That owner Colleen is taking a marketing class for the first time, surprised me since she exemplifies the traits of a good marketer which in her case flows from following her business passion for parents and little kids. She does all the right things from accessorizing purchases to deploying video and social media. wC 20160521_100100_©KeithSpiroPhotoShe even created a gift giving task simplifier that appeals to parent and child – books matching stencil art baby T’s. My first mentor, menswear sales innovator, Stuart Shaines, is now retired to Florida but he would be proud. It was through Stuart that I learned the power of upselling by accessorizing. Put a snazzy shirt, tie, belt and socks to go with the suit being sold you could take a one item transaction and move the needle because it all looked so good together and made a complete package outcome an easy sale. Time is as important as ever and every One-Stop shopping experience either “clicks or mortar” becomes a friction free opportunity to sail through a sale process.

When I talk to Colleen about cash vs. credit card tactics and compliment her marketing , I always get a smile. This too is validation.  We all need it because we are all in this together.

Community, Commerce, Collaboration and Communication makes it all work well.