The future of retail healthcare is changing quickly. Dentists, veterinarians, audiologists, optometrists, chiropractors, orthodontists, dental surgeons and others are facing new challenges. But with the help of cutting-edge technology, practices can grow and succeed. Listen to Vijay Sikka, CEO of Sikka Software, speak on this unique industry and his vision for the future, including the Self Driving Practice.
The Self Driving Practice will have a similar impact to healthcare as transferring oral knowledge to textbooks had in the 9th century. Before we jump into this let me first describe to you a fascinating place I visited recently.
I was recently walking along on the streets of Salerno in Italy and came across the oldest and first medical school in the western world. Scuola Medica Salernitana has origins somewhere in the 9th century and ushered in the western world an era of system, process, and education related to healthcare. It has stood there for 12 centuries and endeavored to change the way medicine was taught in medieval times and beyond. 
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever”. Mahatma Gandhi
Scheduling is the most complex and important lever to drive business and clinical side of healthcare businesses. At Sikka Software, we have now been experimenting with automated scheduling bots for nearly a year. It can be via mobile app (www.PracticeMobilizer.com) or by text and email. One such AI was developed by Abhay Dare and Kiran Darekar from our iBrain team (anyone remembers Isaac Isamov iRobot?) and is called Aleena. Aleena is AI that is able to converse with a patient by email unattended and schedule, reschedule, book and with doctors prior approval cancel appointments. It is bidirectional. In other words, it responds to both doctor initiated or patient initiated scheduling requests.
We have heard and seen a great deal of why AI can be Evil. The references in popular movies and literature of the uber conscious and self-aware AI doing all kinds of damage because it has grown smarter than humanity draw us to a darker image of this technology. It is my belief that Evil AI is not going to manifest itself for several decades if ever. Instead, let’s look at more detail at something that is more here and now.
Imagine it is 10:00 PM and before going to bed you ask your practice how it is doing? The practice replies after thinking that it is expecting to make you $150,000 this month, you would have seen 40 new patients by the time the month is over, all scheduled patients tomorrow have confirmed and your accounts receivable is in control. In addition, you are low on some supplies based on your schedule and asks you if you want to order those. In other words, your practice is doing OK. Your family will have food on the table and you will be able to take that vacation that you have been planning for so long (OK I realize I may be exaggerating a little bit). This is not science fiction. This is what we refer to as Useful AI. Useful AI as described above is largely possible today and Sikka Software just took the first step and launched a Beta version called Practice Assistant on Amazon Alexa which will also soon be available on Google Home device. You have to wait until you reach the bottom of this article to get more details.
This article is not about patient conversations with the practice or its chatbots. This is not about auto scheduling or finding appointments or patient searching for doctors. It is about a doctor’s practice responding to its authorized doctor via conversational interface. In other words a doctor speaking with his or her own practice to get status, schedules, and supplies.
Conversational interfaces and the future of healthcare.
Conversational interfaces and chatbots with AI are all the rage in the consumer world. Several solutions are being offered to cater to over 35.6 million Americans who are now using the voice assistants at least once a month. However, one of the most deserving demographics who needs conversational interfaces is the doctors. Gloves in both hands and a sterile environment make browser clicking or even smartphone touch interface impractical, expensive in cleaning from blood/saliva, time-consuming and cumbersome. According to a 2013 study by Rand Corporation and AMA, doctors feel that user interfaces don’t match their clinical flow.
Some people believe that there is a lot of innovation coming out of the tech industry these days. I feel differently. We are all dazzled by the natural language processing, bots, AI and speaker devices that we have come to admire. AI has helped make mundane tasks easier and we are all ecstatic. Do we really have a lot of innovation coming out from the tech industry? I submit that is not true. The “deep learning” neural networks we know today are not too far evolved from those invented nearly 50 years ago https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seppo_Linnainmaa. The processing power has changed but the fundamental technology has not made any significant strides. In my humble opinion, there is lack of innovation, lack of originality and lack of inspiration.