Siri, meet Emma — the voice-activated benefits expert

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“Emma, what is my annual contribution limit?”

Some employees now can get benefits information with simply a voice command.

Emma, the new voice-activated assistant from consumer-directed healthcare provider Alegeus, is designed to help workers quickly get information about their offerings and make the most of their healthcare money. Think Apple’s Siri — but for benefits.

The service, which is available to users of the firm’s mobile app, will help answer questions previously tasked to a call center.

“There’s such a glaring obvious need for people to get easy and accurate information when they need it in a convenient way,” says John Young, Alegeus’ senior vice president, consumerism and strategy. “Consumers have questions but people don’t often seek the answers because they’re not easily available.”

Americans have poor financial literacy, with half of flexible spending account enrollees passing a basic proficiency quiz, according to Alegeus research. The hope is that a voice-activated intelligent assistant will bridge the gap in understanding benefits.

Emma can answer 100 questions regarding tax-advantaged benefit accounts, such as flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts, health reimbursement accounts, limited purpose FSAs, dependent care FSAs and commuter accounts, Young says.

“This could be a self-service educational tool,” he says. “I think it is set up to that and I think we’re going to get quite a bit of use on that.”

See also: Anthem, Alegeus partner on CDHP technology

The company also built a sense of humor for the intelligent assistant, who can tell a HIPAA knock-knock joke and share personal details about her virtual healthcare needs.

Although Emma might be open to sharing her healthcare information, Young says Alegeus has multi-layered authentication and authorization framework to protect user data.

“Privacy is an enormous issue for all industries, specifically when it comes to people’s finances and health records,” he says. “We’re on that wall related to that with our privacy measures.”

The company says Emma does not track questions that users ask, and she will “only speak after the user has been successfully authenticated within the mobile application and only for as long as the app is running.”

Alegeus clients using the mobile app have access to Emma as of its second quarter. While the company did not say how many clients are using the intelligent assistant feature, Young expects it to be widely used based on “considerable interest” prior to its launch.

“People have questions. There is a considerable fluency gap,” Young says. “And what Emma solves is that instant resource for normal people.”

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