AiThority Interview Series with Steve Auerbach, CEO at Alegeus
Could you tell us about your interaction with smart technologies in AI and FinTech?
Alegeus announced a multi-phased innovation initiative to deliver the Health Benefit industry’s first ‘Smart Health Spending Account (HSA).’ It will leverage AI and Machine Learning to drive intuitive, personalized, and self-guided experiences that help consumers get the most value out of every dollar they spend or save on Healthcare.
How did you start in this space? What galvanized you to be a part of Alegeus?
Healthcare is very personal to me. I’ve had people close to me, including my parents when I was growing up, struggle to make difficult Healthcare decisions. This first-hand experience inspired me to do everything I can to simplify the space and help the average U.S. consumer save money wherever they can.
What are the key areas you cater to? Which geographies are you currently focused on?
Alegeus currently supports 40% of the tax-advantaged benefit accounts (HSAs, Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs), Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs) and more) across the U.S. through its more than 350 third-party administrators (TPA) and health plan clients. These clients use the Alegeus platform to administer benefit accounts for more than 30 million members, and we process more than $9.1 billion consumer healthcare payments for them annually.
Could you tell us more about your consumer healthcare funding platform? How do you leverage AI and Machine learning tools to empower consumers?
The Smart HSA initiative will enhance our administration platform to more broadly support the benefits lifecycle (from account enrollment through HSA investments) – incorporating advanced technologies to identify value-add opportunities and deliver more personalized experiences at every stage of the consumer’s healthcare journey. Self-guiding tools will take the guesswork out of healthcare funding decisions, and the Smart HSA will be delivered in a simple, intuitive user experience that is easy to understand and navigate.
How do AI and Machine Learning techniques unlock new horizons for human efficiencies in business operations?
The Smart HSA initiative will create efficiencies across all stakeholders. Employers will have access to an enhanced portal that provides metrics that impact their bottom line and guides them to capture premium and tax savings.
A CDH Health Score provides the context that employers need to benchmark their performance against their peers, to quantify the financial impact of a program that isn’t fully optimized and to follow a clear course of action that capitalizes on incremental opportunities. Within the enhanced portal, employers will also have access to turnkey employee communications and marketing support that make it easy for their already-busy HR staff to execute.
For the consumer, the Smart HSA will deliver Omnichannel impact – from the way they register and use their Smart HSA app as a digital wallet to how they engage customer support via smart call center routing, real-time push notifications, and decision support chatbots.
How do you differentiate between technologies for AI and Machine Learning?
At its simplest, Artificial Intelligence is used to emulate humans in the most efficient way possible, and Machine Learning is a means to achieve it. Similar to how humans learn from experience and repetition, computers compile data and use the information to calculate the best decision in a given scenario.
Which sectors are most readily prepared to adapt AI/ML disruptions?
While AI has the potential to impact every industry and aspect of our daily lives, Healthcare is at the forefront of the conversation due to the technology’s ability to simplify what has traditionally been overly complex. While it won’t happen overnight, the need is there, and AI and Machine Learning are poised to significantly impact the industry over the next few years.
Could you tell us more about the role of Voice and Chatbot in Healthcare and Patient Care processes?
In 2017, Alegeus introduced the industry’s first Voice-activated intelligent assistant, Emma, for CDH. Emma allows consumers to use their mobile app to easily answer common questions about their benefit accounts via voice command. Given the current fluency level of Healthcare consumers, Emma was a significant innovation to help them better understand how to use their accounts and get the best value for their healthcare dollars.
The Smart HSA will build on this innovation by using chatbots during account enrollment to help assess the consumer’s individual healthcare spending and saving needs. They will guide the consumer to determine which combination of health plan and the benefit account(s) deliver the greatest value for their needs as well as calculate account contribution amounts.
How do you see the raging trend of including involving AI and Machine learning in a modern healthcare stack budget?
AI is playing a growing role in transformative changes that are now underway across healthcare. This means that innovators and early adopters are in and their level of investment depends on their desired position within the adoption curve.
Some companies will invest to generate data that produces better and more widely-adopted products that widen their lead over the competition and results in winner-take-all economics while others invest to use AI in ways that lead them to deliver better services.
What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for businesses in leveraging AI and Machine Learning technology to optimize their Customer Support and Customer Success in the Healthcare industry?
Because they are both broad disciplines, the single biggest challenge for AI and Machine Learning is ‘focus’. If you ask ten people to define what is meant by either, you’ll get ten different answers. At their core, AI/ML strategies need to be laser-focused on a short list of opportunities to improve outcomes for consumers.
Where we see most companies fall short is one of two ways. First, they aren’t clear on what customer pain points they are trying to solve. As a result, AI becomes a solution looking for a problem and quickly loses credibility with people on the front lines. Second, they employ a scatter-shot approach that attempts to embed AI into everything or even asking every part of the organization to integrate AI into their business plan. We think you need to pick one or two use cases where AI can solve an existing pain point, focus there, and then relentlessly drive that initiative forward.
How should young technology professionals train themselves to work better with Automation and AI-based tools?
AI is quickly gaining traction and is becoming ingrained in just about every industry. I’d encourage younger tech professionals to seek continuing education opportunities and training that helps familiarize themselves with the general concept of AI and how it can be integrated into an existing business model. By understanding the technology, they’ll be able to use it to its full capacity.
What is the biggest challenge to Digital Transformation in 2019? How does Alegeus contribute to a successful Digital Transformation?
The key here is to walk before you run. Alegeus boasts the industry’s most robust benefit account administration platform in the market – supporting more than 30 million consumers and 225,000 employers – and now has access to significant investment capital to fund ground-breaking enhancements that leverage AI and ML. Combined, these factors give Alegeus flexibility, a running start, and speed-to-market that cannot be matched by competitors.
How potent is the Human-Machine intelligence for businesses and society? Who owns machine learning results?
We see lots of articles today about bias being built into AI, but we tend to focus on the opportunity AI presents. Healthcare is the perfect fit for AI because everyone wins with better healthcare decisions, outcomes, and financial results.
Where do you see AI/Machine Learning and other smart technologies heading beyond 2020?
Technology improves at an exponential rate. If you had run the concept of a smartphone past me in 1995, I would have considered it such a futuristic, far-out technology – but now, it’s a part of my everyday life and I can’t imagine living without it. I’m sure the same will hold true for AI and that it will continue to make waves in ways we can’t even predict.
The Good, Bad and Ugly about AI that you have heard or predict.
The good/great is that AI has the potential to significantly improve our lives and help simplify things that have historically been complex. The bad and the ugly, according to some, is that many are implementing the technology without fully understanding it, thus not using it to its full potential.
What is your opinion on “Weaponization of AI and Automation”? How do you promote your ideas?
I think we’re a ways away from Skynet taking over, but I’m confident that the actual back-end developers, who are much more technically inclined than I am, are taking great lengths to prevent AI and Automation from becoming a tool that isn’t used for good.
What health technologies and start-ups and labs are you keenly following?
Like many others in the healthcare space, we’re most curious to see what solutions Haven (the joint venture between Amazon, JP Morgan, and Berkshire Hathaway) develops.
What technologies within AI and neuro-linuistic programming (NLP) and Speech Analytics are you interested in?
We’re most interested in predictive technologies that analyze information and return recommendations surrounding how to move forward in a given scenario. Especially when it comes to healthcare, we believe that by analyzing lifestyle choices in real time, AI has the ability to predict what an individual needs to do to stay healthy and guide them to implement those steps.
As a tech leader, what industries do you think would be fastest to adopting analytics and AI/ML with smooth efficiency? What are the new emerging markets for these technology markets?
Healthcare is primed for AI/ML and desperately needs the technology. Efficiency has always been a big issue within the industry, so these innovations could seriously streamline the way we operate.
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
Every day, I block two hours off of my calendar. Instead of leading meetings, I walk the halls to listen, observe, and speak with employees. I don’t know any better way to understand the market than being out in the field, whether that be with our employees or offsite with our clients and prospects.
Who is the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read?
Without hesitation, Steve Jobs.
Thank you, Steve! That was fun and hope to see you back on AiThority soon.
Steven G. Auerbach is the CEO at Alegeus and a member of its board. He brings over 25 years of experience in the field of healthcare benefits, including roles as President of Connextions and senior leadership positions with UnitedHealth Group, ChannelPoint, and Cigna.
With a singular focus on making customers successful, Auerbach has a proven track record of driving organizational growth by offering differentiated value, providing excellent customer service and outstanding consumer experiences.
Alegeus is the market leader in consumer-directed healthcare solutions, offering the industry’s most comprehensive platform for the administration of healthcare benefit accounts (including FSAs, HSAs, HRAs, wellness incentive, dependent care, and commuter accounts), the industry’s most widely-used benefit debit card, and powerful engagement solutions to help consumers maximize savings and optimize spending for their healthcare.
Over 350 clients – including health insurance plans and third-party administrators – leverage Alegeus’ deep expertise and proven technology to administer benefit accounts for more than 30 million members and process more than $9.1 billion in consumer healthcare payments annually. As the healthcare and benefit markets continue to evolve, Alegeus delivers solutions that enable clients to evolve their service offerings, operate their businesses more efficiently, and focus on their customers.
The company is headquartered in Waltham, MA with operations in Orlando, FL and Milwaukee, WI.