Buoy Health, CVS MinuteClinic partner to send patients from chatbot to care

By Jonah Comstock
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Buoy Health, which offers an AI-powered tool that serves to help people understand potential health problems, announced a partnership with CVS MinuteClinic.

When users go through Buoy Health’s online or app-based chatbot interface, if the suggested possible diagnoses lend themselves to treatment at one of the 1,100 MinuteClinics around the United States, the app will do two things. First, it will use GPS to locate the nearest MinuteClinic, and second, it will offer to hold a place in line for the user.

“We’re still figuring out all the nuts and bolts of the commercial arrangement,” Dr. Andrew Le, CEO of Buoy Health, told Babyforyou.net.ua. “This is the first small bite that we’re taking. But we really feel there are mutual benefits for us. We’re enabling a better patient experience, as is CVS. We’re helping bring affordable care to as many patients as possible. What we’re doing is trying to keep patients out of the ER when not appropriate, out of urgent care when not appropriate. So as an affordable place for those patients to land, the MinuteClinic is a really obvious and really nice place for people to get care.”

Obviously the partnership will also benefit CVS by sending individuals to the MinuteClinic who otherwise might not think of it.

“CVS Health is committed to helping people on their path to better care. We do so by providing high-quality health care services that are convenient, affordable, and accessible for patients,” Dr. Troyen A. Brennan, EVP and chief medical officer at CVS Health, said in a statement. “Entering into a relationship with a health-tech innovator like Buoy to connect their experience to our nationwide network of MinuteClinic providers gives us the opportunity to provide affordable care at times and locations that work best for the patients who utilize this innovative technology.”

Buoy Health launched in March 2017 and raised $6.7 million in August. Le says the company has seen significant traction in the meantime.

“By the end of [2017] we actually hit about two and a half million visitors to the site, which we were really excited about,” he said. “Even more exciting is our growth in 2018. This year we’re actually on pace for somewhere between 25 and 50 million visitors to the site.”

What’s more, the visitors capture an interesting segment of the market, gathering data on patients in the early stages of symptoms that can then be used to train Buoy’s machine learning algorithm to be even better.

“What’s interesting is that 65 percent of our users have had symptoms for less than 12 hours when they come to Buoy,” Le said. “Data on how symptoms evolve, that kind of data just doesn’t exist. So as we see patients we’re capturing a snapshot of suffering that’s really unique and interesting for us.”

Le says MinuteClinic is a first step: the company hopes eventually to be able to automatically refer users to a number of different services based on their particular needs.

“We’re going to continue to partner with innovative providers and payers across the country to help patients who have different severity levels find that type of care,” he said. “Whether it’s emergency care, or primary care, or a weight loss program, or behavioral health, all those other services we’re going to continue to partner such that people can really count on coming to Buoy, understanding what to do, and then enabling them to do it. So this is kind of our first step in doing so.”

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