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.

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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.

Fly the Friendly Skies – Big Wind Day

Big Wind Day.  #231wind  No, this is not about an airline and the problems they run into with a long history of customer satisfaction issues and overbooking.

The post came about after seeing this meme passed along this morning from friend Lennox Chase.

” Don’t get mad. Don’t get even. Do better. Much better. Rise above.”

stunning first day end broadcast

So, yes, let’s talk Big Wind and a big mountain, affectionately called The Rock Pile. Let’s also talk about the world’s worst weather. The strongest gust of wind ever recorded in a manned weather Observatory. April 12, 1934. Today is the 83rd anniversary of the 231 mile per hour gust of wind recorded at the top of the Mount Washington Observatory in New Hampshire. Sure, another record was set more recently but it was an unmanned location in a typhoon. Sorry Australia, I am talking about everyday conditions. Snow and other stuff – every month. No other location of human activity has seen a recorded speed such as this.

So instead of angry airline meme’s, I prefer to focus on a fun event taking place on Mount Washington today where friends John Donovan and Dan Szczesny are completing their week of volunteerism at the Mount Washington Observatory.  They have been attending to basic human needs by providing food, housecleaning, companionship and other services for the brave men and women who staff this station 365 days a year including those days and nights in the long cold dead of a New Hampshire winter.

john with 231wind cake

John takes the cake

On this, the 83rd anniversary of the Big Wind, Dan and John cooked up a big wind Day celebration. Cake to support the efforts of the people manning the station.

cisse hot cocoa New Heights TWM sign

Dan’s selfie with Cisse

 

 

Perhaps served with the hot cocoa from my favorite fair trade cocoa company, Cisse.

After all, it must be nice to kick back with a good cup of hot cocoa when the outside temperature is below zero and the wind is at the higher end of the charts. Hence, we have found another community of all good people doing good things for others.

 

Dan has published several books including NH 2017 non fiction Literary Award winner, the Nepal Chronicles about his wedding in Nepal and The Adventures of Buffalo and Tough Cookie – hiking, with his foster child, now teenager, New Hampshire’s 48 peaks with a view. Atop the Rock Pile, he is creating an interesting year for his book in progress to be published by Hobblebush in June 2018. Indeed it is part of his 365 days of mischief and adventure on the mountain.

My role as cheerleader and Community Builder is to help them with some amplification of the messages. Adding value where I can because what Dan and John are doing is a lot more beneficial and enjoyable than much of the other stuff we read about online these days.

Want to fly the friendly Skies? Take a look at their video atop the mountain.  Having your feet lifted off the ground by wind forces in excess of 100 miles an hour with temperatures considerably below freezing is the real test of power.

You can help make a difference:

John Donovan is raising funds for the Observatory. You can add to his fund drive supporting the work of the Mount Washington Observatory here; Seek the Peak 2017.

Dan is modest about his need for funds but spending time and travel driving to and from the Mount Washington area isn’t without its expenses.  I convinced him to put a PayPal site so we could all help him out by buying a tank or two of gas and provide some spending money for his research. I like his writing style and I would encourage you to send him $30 to help pay for a tank of gas or two that it takes to get him up there!

Now that you’ve found you way to #231wind day, take a look at these two people making a difference in the lives of others.  And now, when you go online and see all that big hot air out there take a moment to make a donation to things that provide comfort and make a difference.

Please share this post because this is a BIG WIND that matters

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

Handing off the Torch in Boston

On 1-11 (2017)

At 1:11 (pm)

In 111 Dartmouth Street (Boston)

We empowered our friend and Open Hub Co-founder

To help take Epicenter Community to the next level

Open Hub Boston was formed in April of 2013 to continue the good work of Boston’s longest serving mayor, Mr. Tom Menino. Where Boston World Partnerships ended, our group of engaged active citizens continued. Mayor Menino’s view that “visionaries don’t get things done” propelled us to take the remaining funds of Open Hub and donate them to help Epicenter Community accelerate its growing success under the strong leadership of our fellow member, Malia Lazu.

This is what Joy looks like from that random arrival of a check that helps to make a difference (click on the photo for a brief excerpt of Malia’s remarks):wdsc_0007_keithspirophoto

Open Hub was a grand adventure of working together on community supportive projects and while we have individually moved on to new adventures, many of us continue to stay connected.

Here then is our short history and photo finish:

Open Hub’s launch event took place June 6, 2013 at the offices of Sherin and Lodgen.

Open Hub was formed to “welcome, inform, connect and service our beloved Greater Boston Community and beyond.”

Some 14 of us signed onto that welcome letter including

David Cutler, Debi Kleiman, Mark O’Toole, Danielle Duplin, Mike Lake, Chris Rohland, Bill Ghormley, Malia Lazu, Joshua Hurwitz, Jed Willard, Patty Katsaros and Chad O’Connor. Also joining were Susan Houston, Michael Flint, Lennox Chase, Shannon O’Brien and Phil Budden.

We opened an account at Eastern Bank because of their history as a community focused bank and because Bill and I both respect their now chairman Bob Rivers who turned to disruptors to change bank culture in Eastern’s fight for relevancy and survival. wdsc_0142_keithspirophotoWe liked his spirit then and still do now. The check we handed over transferred from one Eastern Bank account to another. Great leaders think alike.

 

Whatever small steps we took as a group was amplified by our friend and partner Malia Lazu who always said “there is nothing transactional about building social justice.” Epicenter Community is her next step to go bigger and bolder for Boston.

“Give people a different way to create civic space and they will do it. Getting it done, finding each others humanity and telling each others stories” is what makes Malia’s leadership so impactful.

And so, at 1:11pm on 1-11 of 2017 at Brownstone, 111 Dartmouth Street many of us in person, and the rest of Open Hub in spirit, transferred the remaining funds to Epicenter Community to carry the torch forward with the strongest embodiment of the original vision.

My Three Words: 2017 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)

Evelyn Dunphy – First Lady of Katahdin

eevelyndunphyportrait_hrclick this photo of Evelyn for a short video where she answers my question “What does Katahdin mean to you”

With the National Park Service celebrating its 100th anniversary,  I commented that I thought Maine Watercolor Artist Evelyn Dunphy was the real First Lady of Katahdin. What I meant by that was, quite simply, of all the people I have come across connected to the mountain, no other person had done more hands on, up close, community driven work to make modern day Katahdin real. Sure the President and his wife declared The Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument on August 24, 2016 on the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. And yes, land was accumulated and donated, but fractious conversations emerged. Residents, people from away and politicians of all sorts got involved. Yet, long before celebrity and notoriety, Mount Katahdin was quietly enjoyed, shared and championed by many, enjoying the wild spaces as Governor Percival P. Baxter envisioned them.

When these spaces were threatened, it was individuals like Evelyn who became active in raising awareness of the beauty and the need for preservation. She painted and donated artwork and was recognized and awarded the First Artist in Residence in Baxter State Park. Ever.

She has shared those watercolor images in shows around the world. She leads art workshops and engages people, mano a mano – hand to hand – brushstroke to brushstroke as she shares her love of the Katahdin region and her art of watercolor. To me, this makes her the First Lady of Katahdin. A true ambassador for the wilderness preserved by Governor Baxter for the people of Maine.

“But Katahdin in all its glory,

Forever shall remain

The Mountain

Of

The People of Maine.”