Office Hours

Next IT ships “Ann” to Aetna for virtual chat help

Insurance provider Aetna is using online virtual-assistant technology developed in Spokane on its secure member website. Developed by Spokane tech firm Next IT, the virtual assistant “Ann” replies to questions with on-screen text answers and with audio responses in a perky female voice.

It’s been in use since January at the insurance giant’s Aetna Navigator portal, which has more than 11 million registered users.

Since being launched, the Ann assistant has cut phone help requests by 29 percent, said Sherry Sanderford, a spokesperson at Aetna’s headquarters in Hartford, Conn.

The company also said Ann generates 2,500 chat sessions per day. For now the tech tool helps members logon or register at the benefit information site. Ann will gain additional features and a larger role in member assistance over time, said Sanderford.




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