Academic journal article Human Ecology

Rewriting Health Care: John Denning Creates Software to Simplify Insurance Options

Academic journal article Human Ecology

Rewriting Health Care: John Denning Creates Software to Simplify Insurance Options

Article excerpt

Last June, in a competition at the Royal Society in London, John Denning, Sloan '98, drew international attention with a chatbot named "Eugene Goostman." The program, which purported to be a 13-year-old Ukrainian with a bad attitude, became the first to pass the Turing Test inspired by a 1950 paper on artificial intelligence by computer scientist Alan Turing.

Now, Denning and his partners are applying a version of that technology to health care. Imagine logging onto a website to choose a health insurance plan. After supplying information about about your medical history, your doctor, and your prescriptions, the software matches you with the best plan for your needs.

That's the idea behind Wholesale Change, which was co-founded by Denning and his chatbot collaborators. Building on their success, the company uses algorithms to quickly lead consumers to the most affordable, personalized Medicare plan available.

"The engine that we created for Eugene, we've rebuilt it 20 times," Denning says. "It's the same kind of approach, but not the same engine--it's a descendant."

Denning's passion for computerizing health care dates back to his enlistment in the U.S. Army, straight out of high school. With co-workers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Denning created the military's first electronic health record, and received a medal for using algorithms to dramatically reduce the appointment backlog. …

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