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Breaking Down Patient Barriers to Therapy Through Mobile Messaging & Healthcare Virtual Assistants

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Current State of Healthcare Technology

It’s evident within our healthcare system just how challenging it can be for patients and families to receive information and status updates regarding their care. Portals, apps, and websites all pose challenges for patients: remembering logins, potentially missing or incomplete data, and the inability to keep track of items that need to be monitored for care such as symptoms, medications, etc.

Personally, I watched my family in the fall of 2020 to the spring of 2021 struggle to manage the healthcare of my mother-in-law as she suffered from a major stroke. The Critical Care Unit, the rehab center, the skilled nursing, and the long-term care facility lacked the ability to share data between sites and with the family. It was up to us to understand which physician prescribed which treatment and to provide her care team the details that they needed. I watched as my wife printed out clinical care documents from various portals, had care plans mailed to her, and built her own tracking sheet of which medications had been prescribed so that all her caregivers knew what was happening.

Needless to say – technology in healthcare is broken. But perhaps there is a light at the end of the tunnel with new standards such as HL7 FHIR and new legislation such as the data blocking rule, that will improve the ability for the patient and their families to better understand and manage their healthcare. In this blog, I want to share just a small snippet of how these improvements are coming along and where the future could point towards.

Smartphones, Apps & Mobile Messaging

Example of a healthcare virtual assistant

With the broad adoption of the smartphone, we saw the push by pharma to work with agencies and tech providers to create apps to support their brands. Even though healthcare apps have been around for over a decade, broad use and adoption continues to be lacking. One potential reason is app fatigue. One study cites that on average a person has more than 80 apps installed on their phone; however, the average person uses only nine apps per day and 30 apps per month1. In the contrast, considering what a consumer does use often is SMS texting. Approximately 95% percent of text messages are opened within three minutes of being received2.

We see that text messaging is very limited in its ability to create meaningful engagement. For example, the options to respond to a text are typically “Y”, “N”, “Help” or STOP.”  So, in the last few years, we have seen the advent of healthcare virtual assistants and intelligent mobile conversations driven by chatbots and scripted conversations. Mobile messaging is a powerful method of communication to patients that UBC is currently leveraging across both patient support and late-stage programs within a wide variety of indications, patient populations, and communication touchpoints.

The Future of Healthcare Virtual Assistants in Care Coordination & Delivery

UBC’s virtual assistant, Linda, works to keep patients and providers informed and engaged throughout their therapeutic journey. Linda provides real-time, intelligent messaging to enhance activities that traditionally occur telephonically from a case manager or call center. Through automated conversation journeys tailored to your program needs, UBC Pathways® Engage delivers more effective patient support and critical care updates via a patient’s mobile device.  As technology and standards improve, the ability to integrate key information delivery such as patient clinical care documents, provide symptom tracking, and patient support backed by data science, will drive an improved patient experience.

I am passionate about the potential that mobile messaging and virtual assistants can do for the patient and their access to treatment. I’ll be speaking during Informa’s 2021 Hub, SP, and eServices Conference on September 28th at 10:55 AM and welcome the opportunity to share with you how mobile messaging and virtual assistance improves patient engagement.

I will be sharing innovative approaches to patient engagement through tailored touchpoints and digital concierge services, create more meaningful relationships and better patient outcomes. We will share use cases for how these virtual patient engagement platforms can effectively educate patients, improve contract rates, utilize virtual enrollment, and positively impact patient adherence.

To register and join my session, head here. To demo the technology ahead of my session at Informa, launch Linda today.

About the Author

Headshot of Ron Lacy

Ron Lacy is the Vice President of Global Product & Innovation at UBC. Ron brings over 20 years of experience in the design and implementation of technology and services that align to market demands. He uses innovative solutions to help in the execution of your patient support services. To connect with him, head here.


  2. 15 Text Messaging Statistics Every Business Should Know (