IBM Announces First Commercial Application of IBM Watson in Africa

IBM and Metropolitan Health have announced the first commercial application of Watson in Africa. IBM's Watson is a groundbreaking computing platform able to interact in natural language. By tapping into the power of Watson, Metropolitan Health aims to transform health advisory services to its customers. This is a significant move to enhance and personalise health services in South Africa as well as drive outcomes-based services to citizens on the African continent.

Metropolitan Health, a business unit of the JSE-listed MMI Holdings, is the largest medical schemes administrator in South Africa. The company provides administration, managed care and wellness services to more than 20 medical schemes or funds, comprising various blue-chip organisations and government departments, covering millions lives across South Africa.  

Dylan Garnett, CEO of Metropolitan Health, says that health technology plays a critical role in connecting the access-affordability-outcomes priorities for better health services.  "IBM Watson and cognitive computing are helping us do more than simply fix basic breakdowns in treatment paths; we're "leapfrogging" to deliver a market leading  health outcome to  the public. We intend to transform every customer interaction with insightful data and deliver the best personalised services and care available"

"Putting Watson into the hands of customer service advisors is a critical milestone towards improving how we stay well and live smarter," said Mike Rhodin, senior vice president, IBM Watson Group. “Metropolitan Health's innovative application is a good example of how Watson's cognitive intellect has the potential to empower individuals and organizations. Today's announcement is a great testament to Metropolitan Health, which prides itself on product innovation and customer engagement.”

As digital platforms evolve with online, mobile and social media channels, companies like Metropolitan Health need to deepen their interactions with customers and transform the way they provide marketing, sales and service. Consumers expect brands to know them individually, deliver personalised interactions and self-service options anytime, anyplace.

The IBM Watson Engagement Advisor can fundamentally transform the way individuals and companies interact over the lifetime of a relationship. Used by customer service agents or directly by customers, delivered through the cloud and via mobile devices, Watson Engagement Advisor offers organisations the ability to:  

  • Help meet growing customer expectations as organizations seek to better understand customers based on their past history.
  • Engage individuals wherever, whenever, and however they choose.
  • Gain insights from Big Data to make evidence-based, informed decisions

IBM Watson Engagement Advisor is being configured, trained and introduced into the Metropolitan Health customer services environment where more than 12 million client interactions are handled each year. 

IBM Watson will work as a “virtual coach” assisting Customer Service Agents with enquiries. Watson can sift through the equivalent of about one million books - or roughly 200 million pages of data -  and analyse this information to  provide precise responses in less than three seconds. Customer Services Agents will now be able to use Watson’s ability to rapidly sift through enormous amounts of information, analyse it, and supply evidence-based responses to questions, providing more precise and comprehensive information to customers. This will significantly enhance the consistency of responses, as  well as reduce the response time.

“We believe Watson will enable our Customer Service Agents to make better decisions, ultimately driving better health outcomes for the public" says Garnett.

As Watson learns, it will be able to anticipate the “questions behind the questions”, and promptagents to proactively share information. This allows for  all relevant information to be provided in one call, which would normally require two or three follow up calls.  This saves time for both customers and Agents. Over time, Watson will be taught to respond where possible, directly to customer enquiries, and the convenience of having access to health and wellness information 24/7 will be made possible.

“This is a continuation of our journey to deliver improved health and wellness outcomes-based services.  It reinforces our commitment to providing more targeted, personalised services to customers that help them live smarter," says Garnett.

IBM Watson is leading this disruption by delivering the world into a new era of computing, in which apps and systems interact seamlessly with consumers through natural language, enhancing and scaling human expertise and learning with continuing use and new information.

Metropolitan Health is amongst the first companies globally to adopt cognitive technology to enable new and improved ways of meeting customer needs. The company will further augment the power of Watson with an extensive portfolio of IBM capabilities, including business consulting, advanced analytics, healthcare informatics, and IBM Research assets

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