Technology Advisor - Health advocate avatar

September 20, 2017
By Bipin Thomas

The health advocate avatar is envisioned as a knowledge interface that can mediate interactions between individuals and the world of medical information.

It is a secure and discreet agent for the individual that also represents a highly ethical learning technology for collective knowledge. A variety of developments and new technologies are required to provide components for the avatar, including natural language search engines, truly effective voice recognition, haptic devices and high resolution displays. The avatar is envisioned to be a coach, educator and health manager that draws on the experience of large populations. The avatar can provide individuals with control and personalized advice while serving health worldwide.

One can interact with the avatar through numerous interfaces. Individuals can talk to the avatar, use gestures that communicate via motion, perhaps transmit via neural implants or even use an old-fashioned keyboard. More than just a technological wonder, the avatar is an ethical development that can facilitate the health of both individuals and society. The promise of the avatar is supported by the convergence of advanced technologies and health data that can be synthesized into a growing capability to achieve health.

Intelligent technologies to transform health care
Researchers, providers and patients are gaining access to greater computing power, new user interfaces and miniature biomonitors that continuously collect data. Knowledge is being created, challenged and changed at a faster rate than ever before. Key technologies include grid computing to supply the power and the storage capacity, data management tools that mine the vast repositories that can be made available on the dynamic information retrieval systems, natural language processing that helps computers understand human languages at the same time it democratizes scientific knowledge and intelligent agents with increasingly friendly, intuitive interfaces that help both scientists and citizens engage in research.

An avatar leverages these knowledge interfaces in mediating your interactions with the health care system. It uses natural language processing to present complex medical information to you in an easy-to-understand and intuitive way. It allows you to choose the best possible care and helps motivate you to live a healthier life. But it is also a comprehensive, intelligent network, linking you to providers and global information resources. Through sharing knowledge of your health with the health advocate avatar, you also contribute to greater health for others all around the world.

Shift from disease to health potential
When more diseases can be prevented, interest will grow in how health can be created. The shift starts in the near-term, with regulators accepting the validity of surrogate markers and suites of biomarkers that individuals will use for continuous risk monitoring. As more people learn to interpret biological signals, prevention will take center stage. This success leads to a predict and prevent approach that fosters global learning cooperatives as people with shared risk factors pool their knowledge. By 2020, risk research will identify indicators for families, communities and societies, showing their health potential. Healthy communities will grow in number, and will focus on the role of compassion in creating health. The global health agenda created by these healthy communities will be supported by science and ethics.

The avatar would be able to draw relevant information from an individual’s personal records, whether medical or financial. When you interact with your avatar, you are gaining knowledge while giving information. The avatar would listen to learn what you value most and scan for evidence that confirms how your expressed values align with your actions. The avatar might scan your purchases and other evidence of lifestyle choices. It displays multiple physiological parameters, such as pulse and calories expended today. Many more biomarkers will be available in the coming years. The avatar could cross-check all this personal information with leading knowledge centers to provide personalized knowledge about your health status and potential health improvements.

Bipin Thomas
The avatar is your coach, educator and health manager. It can draw on the cumulative experience of others with similar needs, wants and values to guide decisions and provide incentives to encourage healthy behaviors. Individuals could keep the locus of control, and this might mean someone could knowingly lie to the avatar and diminish its ability to help that person reach the full potential for health. However, the health advocate avatar would operate under ethical constraints designed to assure that it conveys the best available knowledge back to the individual.

About the author: Bipin Thomas is a renowned thought leader on consumer-centric health care transformation. Thomas is a board member of HealthCare Business News magazine and strategic advisor to HealthTap. Thomas is a senior executive at Flex, where he is leading business innovation by enabling intelligent products and connecting stakeholders across industries. Thomas is a former senior executive at Accenture and UST Global, where he implemented strategic digital initiatives across the care continuum.