Q&A with Simon Hayhurst, Chief Product Officer

A peek behind the curtain to see how Angela, Kaia’s AI-powered digital care assistant, came to life.

4 min read
Kaia member does at home exercise to relieve back pain.

In staying true to our digital-first mindset, in June we announced the launch of Angela, our AI-powered voice-based digital care assistant, companion, and guide. The goal of Angela is to provide patients with the personalized support they need, creating a richer, more human-like experience.

We sat down with Simon Hayhurst, Chief Product Officer, to get an update on Angela as well as what we can expect from Kaia’s digital MSK solution in the future.

What inspired Angela?

90% of people who need physical therapy for an MSK condition never see a therapist to get the help that they need. 10% who do see a physical therapist frequently struggle to complete their at home physical therapy exercises. And 99% of us can’t afford to work with a care team every day.

As a result, most people don’t complete the proper therapy that leads to recovery. It’s this work at home – 3 or more times per week – that is critical to recovery and clinical progress.

Why do patients struggle with at home physical therapy? The most common reason is needing real-time guidance and support to assist them throughout their therapy program.

We designed Angela to be that extra support layer, providing patients with real-time feedback. We’re finding that this is a key missing piece for successfully completing a course of at home therapy.

How does Angela assist patients in completing at home physical therapy?

So many barriers exist when it comes to patients participating in ongoing physical therapy, especially at home. Our vision is to make the Kaia experience even better than having a dedicated care team there with you.

With Motion Coach™, we already understand precisely how every part of the body is moving. This allows us to deliver real-time assistance and guidance to make therapy more effective.

Next, we wanted to give more general support – even some company and companionship – all with a natural interaction. This is where Angela comes in. Over time, she’ll become that ever-ready, companion, and guide on the therapy journey. She’s always available, never has a bad day, and doesn’t mind if you want her help at 2am.

As a first step she:

  • Checks in to see how you’re doing
  • Understands any issues you’re experiencing and documents the details
  • Creates a summary for the care team so that they can respond directly with any help or medical direction, if and when needed
  • Provides encouragement, support, and motivation, creating a similar experience to in person physical therapy
  • Gains commitment to the next therapy session

How is Angela redefining the patient experience?

Kaia was first to market in MSK and COPD with an AI-powered digital care assistant that improves the patient experience in a way that is ethical and safe. By applying advanced technology, it is our belief that we can improve both accessibility and outcomes for patients with chronic conditions.

Angela is our first step to showing how natural interaction will reshape digital-first patient care. Our digital-first approach, coupled with our care team, allows patients to have the best possible experience when and where it suits them. This is a game changer for patients, providers, and payers.

What excites you most about Angela?

I believe that it’s a fundamental truth that if you’re not digital-first, you simply can’t deliver better patient economics and outcomes.

By providing better care, exactly when and where patients need it, we have the opportunity to make a profound difference for each and every patient – including getting the right help from the care team more quickly and at the right time, by providing better context to the care team.

This allows us to deliver significantly better care by better helping patients. We can deliver more convenient care because patients get what they need when they need it. And care is more affordable because we not only use care teams’ time more efficiently, but we also get better outcomes. This reduces additional medical costs, like preventing ED visits and other costly healthcare utilization.

There’s a lot of buzz around the risks of AI in healthcare. How do you think about that?

We like to approach this the way we approach training any care team member. To create excellent care, you need to have excellent training. We spent a significant amount of time developing training techniques for Angela. One advantage Angela has is that she’s always having a good day, she’s naturally very patient, and doesn’t get frustrated, so we don’t have to train that aspect of her “webside manner”.

We have special training and testing techniques to ensure that she adheres to our AI ethic principles of ensuring privacy, safety and being unbiased. We’ve been developing these approaches since the outset of Kaia, as our Motion Coach technology was designed to meet these same principles.

We purposefully built Angela as a HIPAA-compliant digital care assistant. She knows her place. She takes any concerns and issues and prioritizes them for the care team, so they can provide timely medical direction, when needed.

What’s next for Angela ?

I think of Angela as an early trainee. She’s just getting started, yet already so helpful to our patients and their therapy success. And our patients enjoy chatting with her.

For now, we’re continuing to focus on her training around post-exercise feedback. It’s important to us to ensure that every patient is happy, every time. I’m very excited for the next steps in her training, but maybe that’s a surprise best kept between Angela and Kaia, at least for now. Stay tuned!

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