When Alexandra Philp-Reeves wanted to support a friend who had been diagnosed with an eating disorder, she turned to Google. Unfortunately, most of the advice was unhelpful, conflicting and sometimes even disturbing. An enterprising teenager, Philp-Reeves looked to other technologies for help (namely chatbots), pairing Facebook Messenger with general health and wellness advice for teens. The result: emojiHEALTH, precursor to conversationHEALTH, a startup that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to drive conversations about wellbeing.

Over the coming week, as part of the Health track at Elevate (Canada’s largest tech and innovation festival), conversationHEALTH’s Chief Product Officer, Lexi Kaplin, will share how her company personalizes healthcare to help people of all sorts.

“We really try to look at the person,” Kaplin says. “Not just as a number or a demographic, but who they are and how we can bring conversation to them at their time of need.”

conversationHEALTH does this is by adopting a core principle from the consumer space: “don’t wait for users to come to you; bring content to the places where your users are already spending time.” And that, of course, means leveraging existing social platforms. Instead of navigating unwieldy forums or downloading new apps, conversationHEALTH users can interact on platforms they like Facebook Messenger, Kik, Alexa, webchat and SMS.

conversationHEALTH’s is enabled on the back end by powerful AI technologies like natural language understanding and machine learning to create a user experience that feels natural. And to ensure the information being provided is accessible and accurate, the company works with a team of advisors made up of healthcare practitioners and regulators.

When it comes to the stigma surrounding certain diagnoses, or the discomfort of asking personal health questions, chatbots provide an ideal solution. “It’s amazing to see the kinds of emotional questions that our bot receives,” Kaplin says. “The kinds of things people ask our tech (‘Am I alone?’ and ‘How do I cope?’) are very different from the ones they ask humans since there’s no fear of judgment.” Bots also receive questions about personal topics like sex or mental health.

conversationHEALTH is all about facilitating dialogue. The startup offers support and confidence to patients, while also delivering key data to healthcare companies and providers looking to improve the wellness experience.

With an eye to the future, the company plans to develop specific emojiHEALTH bots for conditions like diabetes, epilepsy, depression and IBD.

It’s all about empowering users to make healthy decisions. Regardless of age, everyone deserves a platform to be heard – real or virtual.

Kaplin and Philp-Reeves (as well as many more inspiring entrepreneurs) will are speaking at Elevate in Toronto from September 21-27.

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Katy Togeretz

Katy is a Digital Writer at MaRS. See more…