Alexan­dra Reeves on chang­ing the way teens learn about health

North Toronto Post - - Currents - by Ju­lia Mas­troianni

I saw a lot of my friends were di­ag­nos­ing them­selves with Ebola.”

Alexan­dra Reeves was 17 when she de­cided there needs to be more ac­ces­si­ble health in­for­ma­tion for teenagers. Her so­lu­tion? A bot.

A chat­bot, to be ex­act. Dur­ing sum­mer break be­fore her se­nior year at Brank­some Hall, Reeves cre­ated emoji Health, an easy-touse, re­lat­able chat­bot that helps young peo­ple learn about sub­jects such as men­tal health, epilepsy, di­a­betes and sex­ual health.

“I saw a lot of my friends were di­ag­nos­ing them­selves with Ebola and can­cer and Lyme dis­ease be­cause they searched the symp­toms on­line, and We­bMD told them they were go­ing to die in 24 hours,” Reeves says.

Both her par­ents are doc­tors, so Reeves grew up with a pretty com­pre­hen­sive un­der­stand­ing of health care.

“I’ve just had this re­lent­less pas­sion to drive change in health care us­ing tech­nol­ogy,” says Reeves. “I was look­ing to use tech­nol­ogy to solve prob­lems.”

Her idea to make the chat­bot teen-friendly came from the type of in­for­ma­tion that she saw was avail­able — and what wasn’t.

“On­line, it’s a lot of white pages with black text. So I was re­ally ex­cited by the idea of chat­bots to bring a con­ver­sa­tional, teenage voice to health care, which is some­thing so lack­ing when you look at health-care re­sources,” Reeves says.

She worked in an ac­cel­er­a­tor for high school stu­dents called Quar­ter Zero where her bot evolved into its cur­rent form on Face­book Mes­sen­ger, where it now has more than 50,000 sub­scribers.

This past sum­mer, she had 22 high school stu­dents as sum­mer in­terns work­ing on emoji Health’s con­tent and tech­nol­ogy de­vel­op­ment un­der the men­tor­ship of the con­ver­sa­tion Health team.

Con­ver­sa­tion Health is the par­ent com­pany of emoji Health.

The bot clearly re­flects teenage in­volve­ment. It reg­u­larly sends gifs and memes, and the tone of the con­ver­sa­tion is a lit­tle friend­lier and up to date with teenage slang.

“Us­ing those fun things helps en­gage the user in the se­ri­ous na­ture of the ma­te­rial,” Reeves says.

Con­ver­sa­tion Health is now work­ing with 10 global phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies to build text and voice bots for pa­tient and physi­cian ed­u­ca­tion.

The com­pany also works with nurses, phar­ma­cists and doc­tors to en­sure in­for­ma­tion is ac­cu­rate and re­li­able for users. Reeves says be­ing a young per­son in the tech­nol­ogy and health in­dus­try has only been an ad­van­tage.

“We know how we’re us­ing tech­nol­ogy, which is how adults will be us­ing it in three years.”

Reeves is ex­cited to see how they can ex­pand con­ver­sa­tion Health fur­ther.

“We want to change health care from this episodic thing where you see your doc­tor ev­ery three months. With the chat­bot, you’re hav­ing the con­ver­sa­tion on your own terms for your own ben­e­fit,” she says.

Reeves started emo­jiHEALTH while at­tend­ing Brank­some Hall

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