HIMSS19 – Consumer and Patient Engagement Need Voice Technology

Take-home pamphlets and regular physician check-ins have run their course in the history of patient engagement. These have long been the means of getting patients to invest in their own health journey. However, successful patient engagement plans must be forged in simplicity. And reading is no longer a simple thing to ask of patients. Fortunately, the tools are here to completely revamp the investment in our patients and re-inspire active involvement in their own health.

Smart speakers and smart displays were once again the most sought-after tech products this past holiday season and we estimate that more than 60 million households worldwide now own at least one device. – David Watkins, Director at Strategy Analytics

I’m not saying that smart speakers are going to find their existential purpose solely in helping to engage patients in the healthcare ecosystem. However, I do believe that this will be one of the biggest attributes of the smart speaker abilities.

Just this past year, an estimated 86.2 million smart speaker devices were shipped to consumers. We can draw a comparison to Apple in 2011 who had just shipped over 72 million iPhones. At this point in time, the Apple iOS ecosystem was beginning to really run smoothly. We’d outgrown the earliest era of apps (typified by apps like Sound Grenade) and had grown into a more mature variety of offerings. All of the major social medias (other than Snapchat) were up and running. Many of the most popular games of all time had been created (Candy Crush, Temple Run, Fruit Ninja).

In many ways, by the time Apple was shipping iPhone hardware at a comparable rate to smart speakers today, they had figured out their “patient engagement” element. Apple knew how to keep people interested and glued to their iPhone.

It’s time that smart speakers begin maturing and nearing this Eureka moment. The fact that there are only three ways in which the majority of smart speaker owners report using their smart speakers: playing music, asking about the weather, or searching Google, means that there is ample opportunity to give people something else to do with their smart speaker.

At the end of the day, we’re all patients. This means that all smart speaker owners can benefit from their provider offering a voice interface to help serve their health needs in some way.

We’re still at the very early stages of healthcare getting into voice applications. I hope that health systems continue to lean into voice interfaces and smart speakers because now’s the time to be working out the kinks in the system. Even just this past week at HIMSS, we heard about a few new and impressive voice initiatives:

Nuance – Exam Room of the Future

Nuance, if you aren’t familiar, is one of the foremost innovators in voice recognition technology, so any updates from them are generally to be respected. Building on their proven Dragon Medical One cloud platform, already used by more than 300,000 providers globally, their latest launch was a product called Ambient Clinical Intelligence. The flashier title is the AI-Powered Exam Room of the Future:

A doctor conducts an entire patient encounter using only voice, in which speech recognition converts lay terminology to medical (and vice versa) to create a progress note, structured documentation, and orders, all ready to be signed. Voice biometric authentication is part of the package as well, as is a wall-mounted bank of 16 microphones that can sense location (such as which leg the doctor is examining). – Mr. H, HIStalk

Why does this fit in the realm of patient engagement? Well, because the more time efficient that physician workflows are, the more time that can be spent working with patients. Also, Mr. H from HIStalk goes on to elaborate an interesting angle to make this even more conducive to patient engagement:

My recommendation – the instructions the “doctor” was rattling off to the patient were full of timelines, activities, and drug names – the doctor could send the voice recording or the layperson transcription to the patient to reinforce what they were told but likely forgot. Patient advocates should pick up that charge, although doctors probably fear malpractice exposure. – Mr. H, HIStalk

Whether or not Mr. H’s suggestion ever goes through, the overall implication of converting doctor advice and recommendations into an easily accessible voice applications will have huge impact on patient engagement.

WEconnect – An App for Relapse Prevention

WEconnect is doing away with paper and pamphlets as the means of getting patients through the rest of their addiction recovery journeys.

85% of people relapse within the first year of recovery. At the end of the 28 day treatment period, you’re left with a piece of paper and pretty much told ‘good luck, find your way to recovery’. No wonder the relapse rate is so high. – Danielle Tudor, CEO & Co-founder WEconnect

WEConnect is using smartphones to engage patients along the addiction recovery process. The WEconnect app incorporates three evidence-based methods for helping with recovery: community support, cognitive behavioral therapy, and contingency management. It’s a unique blend of digital support networks, algorithms that predict risk of relapse, and loyalty rewards for patients.

Although WEconnect is an app, at the moment, they stood out because they’re a prime case study in using technology to improve patient engagement and I also think they will be a likely candidate for voice applications when they’re ready.

Mayo Clinic Provides First Aid on Google Assistant

During HIMSS19, Mayo Clinic announced new availability of their voice-based first aid content on the Google Assistant platform and on their website via voice-powered chat.

The Mayo Clinic First Aid voice application offers users advice on how to treat various conditions, such as fevers, spider bites, or cuts. It also provides information on how to respond in select emergency situations — for example, if a user needs to know the steps for CPR.

Orbita began collaborating with Mayo Clinic on the use of voice for consumer engagement in 2017 when their First Aid skill launched on the Alexa platform. More recently, Mayo Clinic has leveraged Orbita's omnincahnnel capabilities to add their first aid offering to the Google Assistant and web chat environments. 

Expanding the delivery of Mayo Clinic content through more voice channels helps give consumers ready access to trusted health information where and when they need it. – Sandhya Pruthi, MD, associate medical director of Mayo Clinic Global Business Solutions

It’s a reminder that, although Alexa may have a commanding lead in the smart speaker device market with more than 100 million Alexa devices sold, it’s still a very wide-open market. Not to mention, Google Assistant can tap into the Android ecosystem which is why Google says that their Assistant is on more than 1 billion devices. Nonetheless, we must remember to build experiences for both platforms.

In planning a voice strategy, it's critically important to take a wholistic view of the voice ecosystem and ensure a scalable and efficient approach to building, managing and optimizing voice experiences not only for Amazon and Google platforms but also for other modes of conversational dialogue including mobile phones, web sites, and beyond.


Secure Voice in Healthcare: The What, Why,   and How of HIPAA-Eligible Voice  Assistants       READ WHITE PAPER
We Asked Alexa Her Thoughts on HIMSS19

Check out this video to learn more.