It is easy to take for granted how quickly voice assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google have penetrated our daily lives. In just a few short years, most of us have gotten very comfortable with asking Siri to set a reminder or Alexa to dim the lights.
So it’s no surprise that voice assistant technology has long been a target for providers. It offers such a vast array of benefits, including improving adherence and even a form of companionships for those aging in place, which will redefine how people interact with their healthcare.
Some challenges remain, such as balancing HIPAA compliance and the modalities spoken nature that makes that difficult to achieve. However, we see four key healthcare applications for digital voice assistants ready to transform healthcare.
Why voice is a health product design essential
First and foremost, simply adding hands-free as an option is immensely beneficial to patients, providers and healthcare industry professionals alike. From those suffering mobility issues to just people setting a reminder in the car, having an additional communication stream in addition to text creates flexibility.
Digital voice assistants work best as part of a multimodal approach. For example, a user can interact by voice when they’re home and by text in public. And this leads to the inherent challenge voice faces: compliance and privacy.
This is the major reason why we haven’t seen digital voice assistants at scale yet in healthcare. If you look at digital voice applications in other industries, they’ve already crossed the chasm from early adopter to majority because privacy isn’t as much of a concern.
Nonetheless, with Alexa achieving HIPAA-compliance in 2019, we may finally have a large enough predicate to encourage more investment, adoption, and attempts through the regulatory pipeline. The more this happens, the more voice technology will be able to realize its full potential.
In the meantime, these four key healthcare applications are enough to get any digital health player ready to start leveraging voice assistants and delivering wins to stakeholders.
Application 1: perfect for in-home health
In the US alone, 10,000 people per day turn 65. The current healthcare system simply doesn’t have the capacity to manage both the urgent and non-urgent care needs of these individuals. Leveraging voice assistants and digital health provides them the opportunity to maintain their independence and live in their homes longer.
Voice assistants can set appointments and provide much-needed companionship to those who are isolated, especially amid the global pandemic. And with natural language processing and AI, the conversational user experiences and companion apps are rapidly improving over time.
But providing tools for aging in place goes even further. They include remote triage and diagnostics, tools to help loved ones and caregivers check-in more easily and conveniently, promote medication adherence and more. All of these critical components of effective care can be modulated through the medium of voice.
In terms of overall integration across platforms and devices, one of the best examples of virtual assistants in action is Catalia Health’s suite of tools. Built around their Mabu Care Insights platform, Catalia has combined AI tools across an intuitive app, SMS message, chatbots and Siri/Alexa compatibility. It’s not just easy for the patient to use, but the provider ensures engagement on all sides.
Application 2: improving medication adherence
The average adult over age 65 takes four or more prescriptions each day. This is difficult enough to remember, but then each medication must be taken at different times, with or without meals, and may have certain instructions if you forget to take your dose. Compound this with the very normal tendency of getting a bit forgetful with age (let alone neurological decline and increased Alzehiemers and Dementia risk), and these statistics are not surprising.
This is where digital voice assistants like Pillo are so beneficial. The combined software and hardware Pillo is an integrated assistant and medication management tool with an interactive personality! So it ticks both boxes of providing in-home health and improving medication adherence. It’s truly a Smart Medicine Assistant too. It can actively seek out specific users in the room and engage with them.
Application 3: optimizing the provider workflow
While it’s not the flashiest application of voice technology, provider workflow tools may be the most impactful – and we happen to think they are actually very cool ways of using tech!
Just as medication non-adherence is a core threat to patient health, burden and burnout pervade the healthcare system. So we must create efficiencies and find ways to reduce workload.
Tools like Nuance and Suki are absolutely revolutionary for this. What they can do is listen to both patients and providers speak naturally. They can then translate that information into medical terminology as well as dictate and transcribe notes. From here, it then securely works with EHRs, saving the provider’s immense amounts of time.
Rather than the traditional method of a patient describing symptoms, then a provider doing transcription and entry manually, all of this happens automatically, vastly improving accuracy. Providers have more time to spend with patients and can better focus on engagement rather than note-taking. They are also saved vast amounts of time, and payers receive more accurate filings to accelerate the claims process.
And this leads directly to the Digital Front Door. With voice assistants, HCPs can set appointments and onboard patients more efficiently both minimizing the need for clerical staff and reducing the risk of patients falling through care gaps.
Application 4: in the patient room
We’ve seen early use-cases for in-room voice assistants for controlling entertainment. Initially, this type of voice technology was limited to changing the TV channel or hands-free calling without nurse assistance.
Now, we’re seeing even more usage, especially since Alexa achieved HIPAA-compliance. For example, a patient can ask Alexa to play a video relevant to their treatment rather than manually finding one.
Of course, Alexa can also do important things like regulating temperature, raise or lower beds, and call for assistance. Combined with sensor technologies and remote patient monitoring, these tools are both reducing burden and improving the quality of care.
Few examples of voice technology’s potential to transform healthcare are better than the Orbita Platform. It engages at every touchpoint from the Digital Front Door to the BedSide Assistant and OrbitaCONNECT education and assistance platform while providing multi-modal voice, text, video and other HIPAA-compliant interactions to improve outcomes and support HCPs.
Voice-powered design solutions for healthcare
We are at the dawn of the healthcare virtual assistants era. Despite limitations around HIPAA, we’ve already seen incredible applications across the ecosystems and products that have managed to break through this barrier.
With Alexa, Suki, Orbita, Pillo and other products, deliver on this challenge and create intuitive and user-friendly interfaces that people enjoy engaging with.
In short, the market, the users, and even the regulators are readier than they’ve ever been to embrace voice assistants in healthcare. At Star, we can help you leverage these amazing new technologies to create digital health innovation.
We co-create end-to-end products and solutions that deliver stakeholder value and are built with security and compliance in mind from day one. While not in healthcare, there’s no better example than our 2020 Reddot Award-winning collaboration with Nio to create the world’s first in-car companion, Nomi. Nomi builds trust between drivers/passengers and AI and has set the standard for emotional in-car AI.
As Star’s Managing Director of Health & Wellness, David works with customers to ideate and develop digital healthcare products from inception to launch and beyond. Prior to joining Star, David spent 10 years working with customers in the healthcare industry building market-leading products and services that improve patient outcomes, increase engagement and enhance healthcare experiences.