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I sat down and talked to Nate Treloar of Orbita at Project Voice 2020, with QuHarrison Terry of Inevitable Human.

Nate and his team at Orbita built some of the first Alexa Skills in Healthcare, and are some of the most respected thought leaders in the Voice space related to Healthcare specifically.

Orbita works with the Mayo Clinic on improving healthcare patient and professional experience via Alexa enabled devices. In this interview, he tells the story of how the Mayo Clinic found him and that started the partnership of developing within the Alexa Skills framework to deploy voice-based technology at the Mayo Clinic.

Here is the full interview transcript:

Qu: What’s up, I am Qu Harrison Terry from Inevitable Human. I’ve got Paul Hickey from Data Driven Design and a person who you may or may not be familiar with. He is a celebrity in many parts of the healthcare sphere. It’s Nate from Orbita. I mean I don’t even need to drop your last name. You are known worldwide by your first name.
Nate: It’s like Sting, Cher, Bono, and now Nate, right?
Qu: Yeah. Nate the great.
Nate: Well yeah, that’s another character.
Qu: Okay, okay, okay.
Nate: Yeah, it’s just a single name in my tiny little sphere which is my house basically. That’s where I go by one name.
Qu: I love it. But your house travels far and wide.
Nate: Not as good as Qu.
Qu: Qu is omnipresent.
Nate: It’s one letter.
Qu: You saw Star Trek.
Nate: It’s one letter.
Qu: I mean you saw it. Well, yeah it’s nice. Meanwhile, what is Orbita? For the people that are out there. This is their first time. They don’t know who Nate is. They don’t know Orbita. Introduce them.
Nate: Well, more important that you know who Orbita is than Nate. Orbita is a software company based in Boston and we help healthcare organizations across the industry tap into the power and potential of voice and conversational Ai to improve patient engagement, to improve clinical efficiency, and basically to transform how healthcare is delivered.
Qu: Now, that’s a lot. For a person that understands how complex the healthcare industry is.
Nate: Yeah.
Qu: How does, you know, one of these Echo devices change healthcare.
Nate: So imagine you’re 84 years old and you are living home alone and you are struggling with a chronic care need. This is your only avenue to either addressing your isolation, your loneliness, or getting access to care. So I’ll share an experience. I loaned one of these devices about three years ago to a neighbor of my parents – an 84 year old man, vision impaired. Gave him this device and I said Art, Arthur I’m going to come back in two weeks and I’m going to ask you how it went. So I come back in two weeks and said how did it go? He said this has changed my life. I said oh, in what way. He said, “Well you need to understand. One, I’m alone. I am 84 years old. I can’t see. I have a seeing-eye dog. I also have my Apple Siri interface. But if I can’t find my phone, I’m alone. So the ability to just ask what’s in the weather today, so I will know what to wear when I go outside and to find out what’s in the news just with the power of my voice. To find out whether the Patriots won or not.” You know and obviously more recently they haven’t. But for him little things like that were transformative to him. And I am not even talking about care management, I’m not talking about managing a chronic care condition. This is just the fundamentals of a voice first experience for transforming someone’s life.
Qu: Wow.
Nate: You can have this back.
Qu: That’s a powerful story.
Nate: Yeah.
Qu: Paul
Nate: You don’t have to hold that to tell it. It just comes right out.
Qu: Yeah I see.
Paul: So Nate I feel like maybe Orbita might not be getting some credit for some of the things that it is doing because I keep hearing all these amazing things that is happening in healthcare and then I have heard Orbita’s name kind of come up in relation on the backend to that. What are some of the things that you’re most proud of that you guys are doing in the voice space?
Nate: Well, one of the reason is we are kind of a behind the scenes player.
Qu: I love that.
Nate: Yeah.
Qu: Behind the scenes. You make the magic happen behind.
Nate: Make the magic happen.
Qu: Okay.
Nate: Things that we are most proud of, I would say they’re in two categories. One is.. No three categories. One is helping patients find information about health and wellness. So we partner with the Mayo Clinic as you may know, and they have developed some of the earliest forays of Alexa skills that are really about educating patients. In the most general use case is being able to answer questions about first aid, right?
Paul: Okay.
Nate: How do I treat a sunburn? What do I do if I have a spider bite? How do I remove a splinter?
Qu: Yep.
Nate: Basic things like that. So making the high value healthcare content of some body well respected organization like the Mayo Clinic available more broadly to a consumer audience. Not just on their website, not just some mobile apps, but through this next generation channel. We have a number of examples like that and I will say that was the first foray into voice. The next thing that we are doing is we’re doing more in clinical settings. So we’ve recently deployed voice assistants at the bedside.
Paul: Okay.
Nate: Not in this country yet, we’re actually doing this in Australia where we’ve got applications where patients are able to communicate their needs through voice while they’re in their bed in a hospital room and say I need to use the bathroom. I need to… I need a drink of water. I need a blanket. That information is then sent to the on-call nurses. Then the nurses can respond through an application that allows them to decide who’s going to respond and when, how important it is, and what’s the criticality of it. What’s important is they know what the request was. So in contrast to the old red call buttons that you used to push which are very binary. The nurses know exactly what the request is and they can triage and respond accordingly. We’re seeing reductions in the response time on the part of the nurses. We’re seeing reductions in things like risk of fall. And it’s not as obvious, but you think about a patient who needs to use the toilet who has maybe a spinal condition or some other reason. If they get up and try to go to the toilet themselves, they’re a fall risk.
Paul: Okay.
Nate: And anything that we can do to reduce that is an important value metric. So that’s second. The third one is more of once a patient has received care and they’re at home, right? How do you ensure that they’re adhering to their treatment? How do you ensure that they’re getting the support and help that they need? We’re doing that more indirect through our partnerships. We’re embedded in solutions that major providers are putting out there for caring for patients with chronic heart conditions, with diabetes, with respiratory illness. So that’s why we are kind of the behind the scenes enabler where we see real results.
Paul: Nate, are these software applications that are integrated with multiple Alexa skills or is it like the second one you mentioned?
Nate: Not all of these are in voice. The common theme here is the conversational experience. It could be a chatbot. The modality can be voice. It can also be chat. It could be touch and icon driven interfaces, but it’s basically a virtual assistant that’s in conversation in with you.
Paul: Okay
Nate: So that is what we power.
Qu: Now, I mean it’s not everyday you hear someone come sit in this chair and say that they partner with the Mayo Clinic, right? But to partner with such a large group that’s expansive and touches many lives worldwide, lives that they don’t even know they’ve touched, for you to enable them to do that better through fringe or verge technology, how do you put together a team? How do you even get there? How do you even say, hey we’re going to take this device that just came out seven years ago and we’re going to go forward? How did that? Tell me that story.
Nate: Five and half years ago.
Qu: It’s five and half years ago.
Nate: Yeah.
Qu: Wow.
Nate: I don’t think I’m revealing anything sensitive. The Mayo Clinic actually found us.
Qu: Oh wow.
Nate: And the backstory of this is I was, a little over three year ago. I was presenting and we just started our foray into voice. I was presenting at a conference down in Washington, D.C. on the possibility potential for voice assistance in healthcare. We all kind of recognized when the Alexa first came out. We all said healthcare, yes. You know in my experience with Arthur and lending him my Echo dot sort of reinforced that. So we put together our pitch. We actually did some work on our technology to allow us to accept Alexa commands and support the development of Alexa skills. I presented it at a conference and one of the senior executives in the Innovation Lab at the Mayo Clinic approached me and said, we’re just starting to think about this. Can we work together? And that’s recurred, that’s just not with the Mayo Clinic, but with other big systems, with insurance companies, with pharmas. The niche of these conferences is it’s almost like a solution looking for a problem, right?
Qu: Yes and that’s great Segway. Project Voice, your booth, we’re next to it. It’s been super active. You’ve talked to a lot of people.
Nate: Nobody’s there right now.
Qu: Evan’s there. We see him over there in the corner. You’ve seemed to have mastered the art of getting the most value out of a conference when you show up. I know you are pretty strategic in the conferences that you go to.
Nate: You would know that.
Qu: I would know that yeah. I would know that. I’m at a lot of the conferences and I see Nate and I’m like ah yeah what’s up Nate. But when it comes to getting value and then being in a place like Chattanooga, I guess this is two parts. One, what is your conference strategy when it comes to you just networking because I think a lot of people watching this content could value from that? And even myself and Paul are curious, because it’s not everyday that you show up at a conference and like the Mayo Clinic. You gave two presentations, today right?
Paul: Yep.
Qu: Did the Mayo Clinic just call you right after?
Paul: No, no, no.
Qu: Yeah, that’s not an everyday occurrence.
Nate: You had something to say. Here, one of the advantages that we have is that we’re very focused on healthcare. So it helps to be focused on a domain. Right? Whether it’s healthcare or financial services. We’re at a conference about voice. This is horizontal. There are people who are working more generally in customer support. There are people who are in financial services. I had a good conversation with a team that was completely dedicated to voice applications in financial services. But the fact that we are focused on healthcare means we’re orienting ourselves not towards helping build voice tech, voice assistants. We’re orienting ourselves around problems that exist in healthcare.
Qu: Okay, got it.
Nate: So when somebody says what do you do in healthcare? I’m at a conference like this. You heard my opening spiel. If I met him at what’s a healthcare conference which I am sure you are aware of, I’m saying: We’re helping healthcare providers improve patient engagement across the gaps in care. I don’t say anything about voice necessarily out of the gate. I think that kind of entry point offers you the ability to reach people in the healthcare domain that would be harder to do if I just said we build voice skills.
Qu: Cool. Paul, what questions about voice do you have for Nate today?
Paul: Well, I think you are right about healthcare being the perfect application for voice apps. I happen to be from the Nashville Area and Nashville considers itself like THE healthcare capital, right?
Nate: The epicenter.
Paul: Since I have a conference coming up August 7, 2020 called the Nashville Voice Conference and I need to know from you, someone like you like what’s valuable? What kind of valuable programming can I have at my conference? Because I’m not a healthcare guy, but the attendees of my conference are going to want to learn about healthcare, voice in healthcare specifically.
Nate: Yeah well, I would certainly point to what Bradley and the team have done here by creating tracks around the domains. I think that was smart. I think also the sessions themselves orienting them around the problem spaces. You know I did a session yesterday on privacy and security of voice in healthcare. It’s not really a specific problem space, like we are not trying to talk about solving type 2 diabetes, but it is something that is very important to address about particularly the intersection of voice and healthcare. So if you’re working on a voice conference, orient it around domains and the problem space. I would say. I would highly recommend that.
Paul: Thanks, that is creative advice. I appreciate that.
Qu: Nate has come through and dropped a lot of knowledge. Changed a lot of lives. We know that the future of voice in your eyes it seems to be solving a lot of ailments in healthcare and I’m excited that you’re here because I mean what better guy or team to make it happen.
Paul: Yes, absolutely.
Qu: I mean, I’ve got confidence in him.
Paul: So you kind of helped build some of the first Alexa skills.
Nate: In healthcare for sure, I would say, but to be clear we’re in the second inning, maybe.
Paul: Okay, okay, I like that analogy. I like that analogy.
Qu: I like the way he thinks. This is the second inning.
Paul: This is the second inning.
Nate: We’re only in the second inning. We don’t know who’s on first. No, I’m only kidding. There’s a lot of work to do. I alluded to privacy and security in my session yesterday. I think that we know that there is a lot of work to do. Our job as a provider of technology and services to this space is to be ahead of this on behalf of our clients and partners that are trying to understand what they can be doing and how they can apply this compelling new technology. But we’ve a long, long ways to go. I keep thinking about Arthur and that experience that I had and I have many others really when we were exploring this. And that’s where the passion comes from you know can affect somebody’s life as profoundly like that with what seems to be just probably simple technology on the surface. Then there’s something there.
Paul: Absolutely.
Qu: Well thank you for your time. This was a pleasure. Paul, any last questions?
Paul: Thank you. No, I appreciate you and appreciate your time.
Qu: And on that note, we’ll catch you all in the future.

Paul Hickey, Founder / CEO / Lead Strategist at Data Driven Design, LLC and founder of The Voice Event, and The Voice Designer, has created and grown businesses via digital strategy and internet marketing for more than 15 years. His sweet spot is using analytics to design and build websites and grow the audience and revenue of businesses via SEO/Blogging, Google Adwords, Bing Ads, Facebook and Instagram Ads, Social Media Content Marketing, Email Marketing and most recently, Voice App Design and Development – Alexa Skills and Google Actions. The part that he’s most passionate about is quantifying next marketing actions based on real data.

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