Virtual health coach launches in USA

Clevertar 1
Clevertar founders Martin Luerssen and Tanya Newhouse at the company’s Adelaide head office.

Adelaide medical technology company Clevertar is taking its ‘clever avatar’ Anna Cares to the USA.

The Flinders University spinout has given its powerful virtual “health coach” new abilities to respond to the needs of millions of patients with diabetes and other chronic health conditions worldwide.

The latest product is being rolled out, along with a suite of new products, with support from a $420,000 Australian Government commercialisation grant and $600,000 investment by its first third-party partner Konica Minolta.

The SA-based company’s virtual relational agent is conducting a pilot trial of the healthcare coach in Pennsylvania ahead of a staged expansion in America.

“Since spinning out from the Flinders University ‘Thinking Head’ artificial intelligence project three years ago, we have developed and trialled Anna Cares in aged care, hospital and disability services,” says chief operating officer and co-founder Tanya Newhouse.

“Our new diabetes/health management coach will have expanded interaction capabilities to build on these valuable client relationships, tailoring its personalised responses to improve compliance with medications and support lifestyle decisions for diet, exercise, and so on.”

Non-compliance with medication, medical appointments and daily routines by chronic condition sufferers is one of the highest cost burdens on the health system.

Fellow co-founder Dr Martin Luerssen, who leads a team of IT specialists at Clevertar’s Adelaide head office, says the Clevertar’s digital agents have the potential to “democratise” health and aged care, offering reliable and affordable management of chronic conditions. It also had applications in other fields, such as education.

With an estimated 29 million, or almost 10 per cent, of the US population managing diabetes, and with associated health cost spiralling with an ageing population, Clevertar also plans to use a diabetes prototype for other non-communicable chronic diseases in future years.

The health coaching application builds on the current Anna Cares product which provides a range of personalised reminders and prompts, from medical appointments to daily routines, to give users reliable advice via their iPad or mobile device.

Anna Cares is a cloud-based solution that allows aged and disability service providers to keep in contact with clients in their homes and to check that they are taking their medications and taking part in daily activities.

It uses a relational agent or clever avatar called Anna who appears on the client’s iPad giving prompts for taking medications, medical appointments and asks them about their well-being and delivers messages by voice from the person’s family or service provider.

With more than 80 per cent of the population on smartphones and mobile devices, the new ‘relational agent’ avatar will increase patient engagement leading to better health, the company says.

Clevertar is one of several applications for Flinders University’s Thinking Head AI project which has branched into teaching applications with verbal-aural and facial-emotion recognition aspects, including a Teaching Heads system to help children with autism learn social skills.

Future directions for the Talking-Thinking-Teaching Head will incorporate and extend the Flinders University Lip Reading and Audio-Visual Speech Recognition technology developed by Professor David Powers and Dr Trent Lewis, whose research includes computational data to develop a robotic Audiovisual Brain-muscle Computer-controlled (ABC) wheelchair.

Internet marketing search service company YourAmigo was another commercial spinout from the AI research at Flinders University.

Clevertar last year won two South Australian-NT iAwards for Best New Product and Best Health Product. The national iAwards are presented to companies at the cutting edge of technology innovation. It also won the 2016 Talent Unleashed APAC Tech Innovation Award for Best Startup. For more information www.annacares.com

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