Speak up, docs: Bayer's 'AMI' voice assistant talks prescription drug info for physicians

Move over, Siri—Bayer’s new virtual voice assistant AMI is here.

AMI, pronounced as Amy, is Bayer's new voice assistant and chatbot that can talk to physicians about prescription drugs when they say, “Hey Google, talk to Bayer Pharmaceutical” on Google Home.

An acronym for assistant for medical information, AMI is meant to offer quick, hands-free and on-demand information for busy healthcare professionals. Doctors can ask about prescribing information and other details for two oncology drugs, Nubeqa and Xofigo, and three women’s health products, Mirena, Kyleena and Skyla. Bayer plans to add oncology drug Vitrakvi in two weeks and pulmonary hypertension drug Adempas in May to the voice platform.

Bayer is the first pharma to use voice technology to access medical information through Google Home and Google Assistant, the German drugmaker noted.

AMI is also an online chatbot at Bayer’s medical information website—which will be renamed “Ask Med by Bayer” next month—where doctors can type in prescription drug questions. The online chatbot AMI covers Bayer’s full portfolio of products.

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Bayer launched AMI last summer both online and on Google Home. But Bayer spent 2020 focused on building, adjusting and shaping up the platform.

Now, sales reps and field teams are promoting AMI and encouraging healthcare professionals to log in—or just talk. Bayer created cards to hand out to doctors along with a short animated video that shows them how to access and use the system.

The idea for AMI began with Wagdy Youssef, a physician and Bayer senior director of medical communications and medical information.

At home, he uses Google Home to control his lights and open and close the garage door, but he noticed when he tried asking for specific medical information, the voice bot pulled suggestions from random websites—sometimes with incorrect information.

So he approached Bayer's chief medical officer Mike DeVoy in 2019 with the idea—a quick "elevator pitch," as he calls it—and DeVoy quickly greenlighted it. He even gave Youssef a book about the development of the voice industry.

Youssef then assembled a team from Bayer's information technology, compliance, medical governance and his own medical information groups to begin weekly planning meetings. The team developed the two environments—text chatbot and voice assistant—as well as devised ways to meet industry regulations, incorporate industry standards and adapt machine learning to fit with AMI.

For instance, when a doctor calls up AMI by saying, "Hey" or "OK Google" and the key phrase “Talk to Bayer Pharmaceuticals,” it responds with a series of questions asking whether the person is a doctor and if the email account associated with the Google Home account can be used. AMI automatically sends a transcript of the conversation to the email after the chat.

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Other issues AMI addresses include privacy—she reminds doctors not to reveal patient information as they talk—and adverse event reporting. The bot tells physicians the platform is not geared for side effect reporting, but if a doctor continues to try to submit one, AMI will redirect them to the appropriate place.

Bayer is launching AMI only to healthcare providers, but Youssef’s team is already exploring how it could interact with consumers, with a goal to move there next.

One of the challenges Bayer is working on for consumers is machine learning around voice processing. As Youssef noted, medical professionals would likely describe headaches, for instance, in just a few different ways, while consumers might say anything from simply, "headache" to, “my head’s going to explode.”

Bayer Consumer Healthcare recently launched its own voice initiative with Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant. An interactive ad allows consumers to buy an OTC product by talking to the Amazon device. While AMI is confined to the Google Home platform for now, it will be possible to add the voice assistant to Alexa when, and if, Amazon opens up its skills to pharma companies, Youssef said.