Voice Assistants, Healthcare, and The Future Of Patient Experience

Voice offers healthcare organizations new ways to improve the patient and provider experience.

Voice assistants. They’re everywhere. They’re in our phones, our smart home devices and now, they’re even in healthcare settings. You’ve likely heard of Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant; perhaps you use one of these yourself. But have you ever thought how these assistants can be used to provide better patient care?

As Voice assistants become more popular with Americans, patient care professionals, hospitals, health systems, and even care facilities need to think about ways they can use this technology to improve the experience during each phase of the patient’s journey.

Voice assistants are no longer a novelty only used by early adopters

Voice assistant usage continues to grow in the U.S. as the Voice habits that consumers developed during the pandemic are now a part of their daily lives. According to findings from the 2022 Voice Consumer Index, approximately 63% of Americans currently use a Voice assistant and daily usage has increased to 38% – an 8% increase over 2021.

These increases were driven by upticks in general usage and specific use cases, such as searching for information about symptoms or a disease, finding information about a brand or product, finding a specialist, and even scheduling an appointment in addition to a host of non healthcare related tasks. As more people have  become comfortable with using their Voice, it has become part of their daily routine.

Voice technology also isn’t just reserved for younger patients. Data from the 2021 Voice Consumer Index showed that Voice assistant usage was happening across all generations, from Gen Z to Gen X to Boomers and even older age groups. In the 2022 research, those same age groups are showing a level of comfort where they are even willing to make purchases, with 25 – 54 year olds accounting for the highest percentages in the 60% range in the US and 55 – 65+ not far behind.

Voice gives healthcare professionals a powerful new tool to connect and engage with their patients.

Voice assistants deliver patient assistance and information

For many patients, Voice assistants can help them find information in an easy, intuitive way. This includes not only patients of every age and demographic but also people living with chronic conditions that impact manual dexterity or people dealing with vision impairment or loss. By simply speaking, patients can access information about their health, look up symptoms they may be experiencing, or even find a specialist in their area. Voice assistants can also help patients get things done—like scheduling a doctor’s appointment, getting a medication reminder, or making a prescription refill request.

Voice assistants can also help patients feel more comfortable and in control by providing them with answers to questions they might not feel comfortable asking an actual person or normally would require them to make a phone call. For example: “What else could I be doing to stay healthy and prevent disease?” Or “What time is my doctor’s appointment?”

To deliver on these requests, a brand or health systems needs to have the right systems (and content) in place, otherwise their audience might get a response from the competition or worse, get no response at all.

Voice assistants can benefit organizations

While Voice assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Home are probably the best known and most widely adopted, there is a recent trend of brands creating their own custom Voice assistants. These assistants can be deployed on a branded or unbranded website much like a chatbot or even within existing mobile applications. This gives patients yet another way to interact with a brand and can provide just in time assistance when they have a question.

The biggest benefit of this approach is that the brand or healthcare organization owns the patient data not Amazon, Google or Apple. This makes ensuring HIPAA compliance easier and allows you to integrate the data into existing systems within your technology stack. It also can provide you with an even more complete picture of the patient and their needs.

Additionally, these AI systems can ensure that the responses the assistant provides are compliant with all internal medical & regulatory or legal team guidance. They can also be set up in such a way to triage a patient’s request and escalate an issue to a human operator when appropriate.

Simply put, Voice in healthcare can be a powerful new business intelligence tool that can help you to collect richer and more nuanced patient data. When applied properly, the insights gained from a Voice assistant could shorten the time to a proper diagnosis resulting in better health outcomes.

Voice assistance is the next frontier for patient experience

As Voice assistants become more advanced, with enhanced artificial intelligence capabilities, we should start asking ourselves how Voice assistants can help us improve patient care and the overall healthcare experience. We need to start thinking about this now however before we miss the opportunity to learn while patient expectations are manageable.

I know there are many questions about how to provide the right Voice assistance to your patients – but it’s important to realize that it’s not the technology that matters most. Addressing the content needs of our audiences in all phases of the journey, then identifying how Voice can make things easier or more efficient for them is the first step for short and long term success.

If we focus on doing this part well, then the Voice piece will take care of itself!

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