Automated empathy allows doctors to check on patients daily

David Larson, 66, had knee surgery to repair a meniscus tear in December. He used the HealthLoop technology and says it helped detect a blood clot that could have put him back in the hospital.

Story highlights

  • California startup HealthLoop uses automated empathy emails to help doctors check up on patients daily
  • Almost one of every five Medicare patients discharged from a hospital must be readmitted within 30 days

A health care startup made a wild pitch to Cara Waller, CEO of the Newport Orthopedic Institute in Newport Beach. The company said it could get patients more engaged by "automating" physician empathy.

It "almost made me nauseous," she said. How can you automate something as deeply personal as empathy?
But Waller needed help. Her physicians, who perform as many as 500 surgeries a year, manage large numbers of patients at various stages of treatment and recovery. They needed a better way to communicate with patients and track their progress.
    The California startup, HealthLoop, told Waller its messaging technology would improve their satisfaction and help keep them out of the hospital. High satisfaction scores and low readmission rates mean higher reimbursements from Medicare, so Waller was intrigued.
    So far, she's been surprised at patients' enthusiasm for the personalized — but automated — daily emails they receive from their doctor.
    "There's a limited number of resources in health care. If you do 500 joint replacements in a year, how do you follow up all of those patients every day?" Waller said. The technology "allows you to direct your energy to people who need the handholding."