Voice Assistants in Healthcare — Are We There Yet?, by Nathan Treloar and Jonathan Istrin
Voice assistants can transform the digital world for people who can’t otherwise engage. Why voice? It’s natural and intuitive for many seniors and other audiences. One example from Jonathan Istrin: homeless population, when given a home and an Alexa, allows them to talk to someone digital, which is more comfortable than talking to a clinician.
Engagement is the theme. In healthcare, the use cases are typically:
- Patient engagement: mostly in the home
- Clinician efficiency: in the clinical setting
What can Voice Technologies Do?
Virtual healthcare assistants can do many things, along a spectrum from consumer health to clinical care. They can:
- Inform: Mayo Clinic, for example, offers information through an Alexa Skill. This was one of the earliest healthcare apps.
- Assist: Call Center Optimization, where a Bot can escalate to a call center when it can’t answer the question.
- Dispense: Home Healthcare, which can dispense medication and do telehealth video chats. It’s secure, HIPAA-compliant, and has Face and Voice recognition.
Other examples include:
- Voice Health Coach or Therapist – a therapy coach can walk a patient through a therapy program and provide support and encouragement. Or they can offer videos to explain how to do things.
- Health Care Concierge, like Libertana, addressing social isolation (which costs Medicare ~$7billion/year)
- Inpatient Bedside Assistant, allows patients to communicate to on call nursing staff. Compliments the red call button.
Challenges and Opportunities
Alexa Skills Kit is now capable of HIPAA compliance! That’s huge. There are challenges. For example, how do you take existing text and move it into a conversational agent?
As we move toward more clinical applications, we’re still in “pilot phase.” But it’s exciting to see virtual assistants trends expand.