With continuous development in many aspects ranging from new policies and research to advances in medical technology and drug trials, healthcare is a global industry that is accumulating more than $8 billion annually. In such a global industry, self-service has become essential today considering the enormous treatment costs. Now, people are self-diagnosing their symptoms and tracking vitals like sleep quality and heart rate using wearables, and talking to licensed doctors through chat applications regarding their ailments. An emerging technology that is drastically changing the way we address health issues is voice technology. This natural, flexible and rapid method of communication has emerged as the next frontier for self-service in healthcare. Innovative technology also facilitates digital marketing in healthcare, and in this regard, two areas that have seen the greatest impact of technology are social media marketing and healthcare apps.
What Is Voice-Assisted Technology?
According to MOBISOFT, “Voice search is getting popular, and so is the demand for quality voice applications for healthcare. A report from Edison Research and NPR shows that 53 million people in the United States own a smart speaker, mostly Amazon Echo or Google Home. Gartner predicted that 30% of web browsing would be via voice by 2030”.
In simple words, voice-assisted technology is a voice or smart home assistant which is a piece of software that communicates to the user audibly, and responds to spoken commands. Its technology like Google Home, Siri and Alexa can be used to literally talk to a computer, a smartphone, or another device. These assistants are becoming more and more popular as the interfaces become more useful and less awkward to use, and the technology also grows in sophistication and intelligence.
IBM Showbox, introduced in 1961by IBM, is viewed as the first digital speech recognition tool.However, Microsoft then launched its first speech recognition feature for Office XP in 2001, followed 10 years later by Apple’s introduction of Siri on April 14, 2011. This was followed again in 2014 by Microsoft’s digital personal assistant, Cortana. In November 2016, Amazon launched Alexa, another natural language interface that added two important new elements- made the interface accessible and created a marketplace for new voice applications, and introduced us to ambient computing concept.
According to a blog from Machine Design:
- Major speech recognition platforms have achieved accuracy over 95%, which is on par with humans
- ComScore predicts that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020
- 65% of people who own an Amazon Echo or Google Home can’t imagine going back to the days before they had a smart speaker – GeoMarketing
- 72% of people who own a voice-activated speaker say their devices are used as part of their daily routines – Google
Role of Voice-assisted technology in Healthcare
Voice assisted technology promises a more “human” experience and enables users to access information quickly without navigating a complicated interface. In healthcare, voice technology is potentially the next wave in the technology platform shift and will radically change the way we interact with technology. According to Everyday Health, the promise of voice technology goes well beyond delivering general health information to consumers. It could serve as a bridge between healthcare providers and patients to facilitate remote diagnostics, care, and monitoring of therapeutic compliance.
Voice assistant technology also plays a number of roles in healthcare processes, including (pragmatic-voice.com):
- Disease management
- System tracking and journaling
- Medication adherence
- Data collection and cost reduction
- Prompting patients to schedule appointments
- Helping them prepare for procedures
- Standardizing care information provided before or after treatment
- Asking questions during the care process
This real-time vision into patient wellness would lead to improved, personalized care thereby shaping patient behavior and promoting better health practices.Voice-assisted technology uses digital assistants or chat bots that are valuable assets for delivering high-quality, cost-effective care. There are also a few key use cases where digital voice assistants have real potential to shine and impact the industry and these include:
- The Examination Room: Be it your primary care physician, or a specialist practice, having a listening device in the examination room with the patient is beneficial in capturing clinical notes, identifying billing codes, or even providing clinical decision support during the encounter. Moreover, an excellent digital assistant may update the electronic medical record (EMR) with relevant information just from the back and forth conversation between you and your doctor. In this way, digital assistants help physicians focus on their patients rather than their EMRs.
- The Operating Room: When you’re in the middle of a procedure, you need to remain sterile. This smart voice technology helps you to quickly and intelligently make decisions relevant to a patient’s specific needs in a sterile environment via voice.
- The Recovery Room: Generally, patients experience restricted mobility in recovery rooms, whether in a hospital, or at home. In such cases, voice interfaces present a new opportunity to connect patients into their ecosystems – with simple things such as to dim or switch off lights, adjust the temperature of a room, control the audio levels and so on. Voice technology can empower users to maintain control of their environment. Voice assistants can also be used by patients to order food, request nursing assistance or find out more about their medical condition from trusted sources such as Health Wise and Health Navigator.
- Surveys and Clinical Trials: A voice interface helps to gather information and allows users to do this while they’re completing other tasks, for example, you can literally report your daily test results in the kitchen while making breakfast.Companies like Amgen have started adding voice interfaces to make it easier for patients to complete their daily journal, and Orbita is working with clinical trial data firm ERT to include voice as a component of data collection (complete surveys, verify completion, and report health concerns)(machinedesign.com).
- Incorporate Care Management Platforms: Monitoring users and providing feedback to clinical staff is what Care Management Platforms usually do. With a voice interface, these care management platforms can report data directly from medical devices and also allow starting a conversation about the context around your data.If information from multiple devices can be gathered to identify that the patient is not sleeping well or has put on weight, a digital assistant can enquire about what’s happening in the patient’s life, leading to richer sources of information and potentially earlier interventions.
- Home and Elder Care: Along with many use-cases provided by voice-technology, reaching elderly people is one of the greatest benefits these systems could provide. In homes, the introduction of Amazon Alexa has produced many new use cases that range from reminders to home automation and personal or medical alert response systems.Recently, on Search Engine Watch, it’s described how voice-first technology like Alexa can help marketers reach elderly people. Elderly people have a low frustration tolerance for learning how technologies work. This is one of the major reasons why voice assistants like Alexa are catching on with the elderly audience. With no swiping or clicking required, devices like Amazon Alexa or Google home allow elders to simply voice their request and the device responds.
According to Search Engine Watch, a San Diego pilot project conducted by Davis Park, the executive director for Front Porch Center for Innovation and Well being set up an Alexa system in a retirement community with 50 residents where most residents were over 80 years old, and observed the results. About 75% of the residents used their smart devices regularly with voice commands to listen to their favorite types of music, to watch or listen to their favorite sports teams, to turn the lights off and on, change the temperature, adjust the volume of the music, listen to audio books, and get medication reminders using only their voices.
Just by making requests out loud, voice technology provides many benefits for elderly people, which include:
- Elderly people can be less reliant on others as it allows them to have greater control and independence
- It’s convenient, saves time, and is cost-effective
- Elders will feel safer, less isolated, and more connected to friends, family, and the community
- It gives family members of seniors the all-important peace of mind
- Provides a greater quality of life
For instance, if an elderly person slips or falls, all they have to do is call out to their app and it will alert someone to send help right away. It eradicates the worry or fear of imagining them lying helpless on the floor for hours before help arrives.
However, Google home now provides the feature to adjust treble and bass for those with hearing impairments in voice interfaces (for the elderly)- which was once a challenge. The key to employing technology in the senior care industry is education, awareness, and a focus on safety and well-being for senior populations.
As of now, voice interaction is already becoming part of our everyday experience and it’s significant that this will help address our healthcare needs. Advanced voice assistants equipped with natural language processing can pick up context in a conversation between doctor and patient and automatically generate patient notes, while others enable doctors to dictate their notes using speech-to-text capabilities. If you’re not using a voice interface already, start – as it’s the best way to learn how they operate and they’re not going away any time soon. With the support of medical social media marketing, healthcare businesses can put in extra effort in improving their social media marketing techniques, especially in voice technologies, and thereby increase their customer base and brand value.