MDLive launches Sophie, a chatbot for registration and, eventually, more

By Jonah Comstock
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Telemedicine company MDLive launched Sophie, an AI-powered chatbot, this week. Though the chatbot is currently usable only for registration, the company has big plans to build out its functionality into a full-featured personal health assistant.

“The biggest obstacle that we have … has been to get a member who has eligibility for this benefit that we are providing — to get immediate access to doctors, therapists, dermatologists — to just register and activate their account. It’s a major hurdle,” Randy Parker, founder and chief business development officer at MDLive, told MobiHealthNews. “So we’ve created Sophie —which is the Greek word for woman of wisdom —  to become a trusted digital health assistant and allow that member to activate and begin that conversation by eliminating the friction.”

Members are targeted based on demographics. They conversation is initiated via text message, then the user clicks a link to connect to Sophie on the web. During the registration process, the member is prompted to download the MDLive app.

Parker says that in early testing, the chatbot was 50 percent more effective than traditional registration-boosting efforts like direct mail or email campaigns.

“You don’t have to go through what I would call ‘death by checkbox’ to register on our system,” he said. “You can do it quickly and easily just by having a small conversation with Sophie which will allow you to be registered, activated, and have your mobile download complete.”

MDLive has a lot more planned for Sophie in 2018. If all goes well, the chatbot will be able to schedule appointments, do triage based on symptoms and recommend a virtual visit or an in-person one, and even promote healthcare price transparency by helping members do cost comparisons.

“The most exciting part here about the birth of Sophie as a personal health assistant is that consumers now certainly need to be more informed as we move to high-deductible plan and access becomes more limited,” Parker said. “This allows our members an ability to have a way to leverage technology and information to be able to make better choices.”