The virtual assistant that could help Australians with e-health records

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The virtual assistant that could help Australians with e-health records

ADHA moves to create bot ahead of opt-out period.

Australia’s e-health record operator has begun investigating whether a virtual assistant could help answer questions about the personal e-health record that will shortly be created for every Australian under the opt-out My Health Record scheme.

iTnews can reveal the Australian Digital Health Agency is in the early stages of developing the virtual assistant to help users navigate the My Health Record website.

It comes ahead of an opt-out period for My Health Record, which is expected to see increased traffic to the standalone portal the ADHA has built to allow citizens to opt out.

The federal government confirmed in its May 2017 budget that an e-health record would be automatically created for every Australian by the end of 2018, unless an individual decides against it during a three month opt-out window.

The timing of the opt-out period, which must begin before September 1 this year, is yet to be announced by health minister Greg Hunt.

A spokesperson told iTnews the ADHA was currently working with AI provider FaceMe to create a proof-of-concept for the virtual assistant.

“The agency is working with FaceMe to determine if the company’s algorithm technology can provide improved support for first time users of the My Health Record website,” the spokesperson said.

“The FaceMe digital assistant is a proof-of-concept that was created utilising IBM Watson and FaceMe’s proprietary artificial intelligence technology.” 

FaceMe is also one of the platforms behind the National Disability Insurance Agency’s Nadia virtual assistant, which is intended to help the agency handle the 8000 calls it receives each week.

The bot is expected to be trialled this year, after development was paused to review the national disability insurance scheme.

The spokesperson said the ADHA's solution would respond to questions in real-time using natural language, and would be hosted on ADHA’s infrastructure or within an Australian data centre.

But the agency expects to wait until the results of user prototype testing, which it hopes to have complete by mid-2018, before deciding whether to progress the project.

“If the project reaches the pilot stage, the agency and FaceMe will test an avatar that could help users navigate the system and populate forms and information,” the spokesperson said.

More than 5.67 million Australian have now registered for a My Health Record, with close to 500,000 new records created since October last year.

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