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AI-based voice analysis provides emotional intelligence in healthcare

Boston-based startup Cogito Corporation provides emotional intelligence for healthcare with AI-driven real-time voice analysis for insurance call centers and other organizations.

Editor's note: Each month, the editors at SearchHealthIT recognize an innovative software, service or technology...

approach. Cogito Corporation is our November 2016 selection.

Product: Cogito Dialog

Commercial release date: First released in 2014, with major update released January 2016

What Cogito does

Emotional intelligence in healthcare is not only about caregivers nurturing patients.

It's also the byproduct of a new artificial intelligence (AI) based technology for real-time voice analytics from Cogito Corporation that is intended to foster empathy and efficiency in people who work with clients by phone.

Cogito is targeting health plans and insurers, and potentially providers, as a key customer base that can use emotional intelligence in healthcare to help keep stress levels down among call center workers and the patients they serve.

Cogito's algorithms parse each nanosecond of a caller's speech over the phone and simultaneously flash recommendations and feedback to the customer service center worker mid-call. As in, "you're speaking too much," "frequent overlaps," "breathe, pause between phrases," or "you're tense."

Cogito is the brainchild of its CEO, New Zealand native Joshua Feast, who co-founded the company after receiving his MBA from MIT in 2007.

If you're interacting with the health system and you're so overwhelmed and you get empathic, compassionate conversations, obviously you're going to be much happier as a consumer.
Joshua Feast, CEO and co-founder, Cogito Corporation

Feast, who came out of the IT end of the social services industry in New Zealand, grounded Cogito's technology in the behavioral science he later studied and tested at the MIT Human Dynamics Lab.

Cogito developed the technology with help from grants from DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), which studied behavioral signs of soldiers' psychological distress.

"When you think about a large organization and the front line interacting with patients and customers, what we're really trying to achieve is to help that front line consistently deliver empathic, compassionate conversations," Feast said in an interview at Cogito's busy downtown Boston headquarters.

"It's critical for healthcare," Feast continued. "For an individual who may be experiencing illness for the first time or a serious illness, it's incredibly personal and the health system is incredibly complex and overwhelming."

Cogito received $15 million in venture capital funding in November 2016 from expansion stage venture capital firm OpenView Venture Partners. Cogito has previously received a $5 million funding round from Salesforce Ventures, a wing of CRM giant, and Romulus Capital.

Why Cogito matters

Healthcare is moving away from the traditional doctor-patient relationship and toward coordinated care, care teams, health coaches and employer health plans with built-in wellness programs.

With patients now interacting more over the phone with member services workers, nurses and care managers, the "relational" quality of those interactions is increasingly important, Feast said.

Cogito's technology ultimately can improve healthcare by improving patients' relationships with healthcare organizations by injecting emotional intelligence in healthcare, he said.

"If you're interacting with the health system and you're so overwhelmed and you get empathic, compassionate conversations, obviously you're going to be much happier as a consumer," he said. "If you can create a trusted relationship with an expert who guides you, you're more likely to follow through on that expert's recommendations."

What a user says

Humana, Inc., one of the nation's largest health insurers, uses Cogito's Dialog system at call centers in six states across its retail, group-Medicare, and pharmacy business units in proof of concept trial applications involving about 200 call center workers.

Geeta Wilson, director of consumer experience at Humana, said in a statement e-mailed to SearchHealthIT that the technology is working so far.

While the insurer is still assessing the ROI, after analyzing hundreds of thousands of calls, the company is seeing "positive signs in customer satisfaction" and faster issue resolution times.

"The Cogito [system] helps our agents recognize when a conversation is hitting a snag, slowing down, or escalating into frustration. The agents are so busy trying to solve the customer's problem that they can miss subtle cues in the conversation," Wilson said. "That's when the tool alerts them, in real time, about how they can improve the call and course-correct while they are still interacting with the customer. At that point, they can recover the call and turn it positive again."

The chief challenge, Wilson said, is getting customer service agents willing to use the Cogito system and get comfortable with it. Once they are accustomed to the on-screen alerts and feedback, most agents like it, she said.

Wilson said Humana is not using the technology to create a record of metrics for performance evaluations, but rather to help the agents be more successful.


Cogito combines behavioral science and AI to perform instant voice analysis, supply advanced analytical models and visually guide phone professionals' speaking behavior in real time.

Cogito Dialog, which is cloud-based, performs these functions, according to the company:

  • Analyzing the human voice (in any language) using big data and proprietary algorithms and creating streaming analysis of behavioral signals
  • Real-time experience scores provide management with the option of objectively measuring call agent performance and customer experience on every call
  • Predicting outcomes by extracting insights from each interaction to inform organizations what customers and representatives are likely to do next
  • Integrating with existing CRM, business intelligence and telephony systems
  • Using machine learning to enable the system to get "smarter" with use


Pricing is based on a per user, per month model. Cogito works with customers to determine pricing structure that corresponds with size of deployment. 

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