Voice tech is coming to healthcare


New ways of communicating are making their way into the healthcare space. Voice technology is one such example, and its pros and cons were highlighted at the Voice.Health Summit at the Connected Health Conference in Boston on October 17.

Despite society’s interest in and reliance on voice assistants like Alexa and Siri, healthcare is still in the nascent stages of using voice tech. During a panel at the Summit, Stuart Patterson (co-founder and CEO of LifePod) and Nathan Treloar (president and COO of Orbita) agreed that healthcare consumers are mostly utilizing voice technology for information services. For instance, through the Mayo Clinic First Aid program, users can ask Alexa about first aid information. WebMD also allows users of Alexa-enabled devices to access its archives of health-related information.

Another panelist, Wellpepper co-founder and CEO Anne Weiler, added that voice-enabled applications are good for quick hits and guided interactions, but not well-suited to conveying lengthy pieces of information.

All three panelists’ companies touch on speech capabilities within the healthcare space. LifePod focuses on bringing voice technology to seniors, while Orbita produces HIPAA-compliant voice and chatbot applications for healthcare. Wellpepper, a platform for digital patient treatment plans, offers a solution called Sugarpod. The tool is essentially a diabetes care plan that leverages voice interactions.

Those aren’t the only organizations utilizing the hottest voice tech trends. During the Summit, other well-known entities and startups presented their approach to using speech tools in medicine.

Karin Beckstrom of ERT Innovation Lab discussed how her organization is harnessing the power of voice to help with clinical trials. Laura Schuntermann of Cigna noted that the insurer launched its Answers by Cigna skill for Amazon Alexa earlier this year. Users can ask health-related questions like “What’s a formulary?” and get an answer. And Sara Smolley talked about the company she co-founded, VoiceItt, which is making voice technology for people with speech disabilities.

Despite all the intriguing applications of voice tech in healthcare, there are hurdles that stand in the way of its widespread adoption. HIPAA compliance is an issue, not to mention the fact that the technology can malfunction or misunderstand a user’s words.

Plus, as Weiler noted, voice tech doesn’t work in every situation to every problem. “Don’t try and get voice to do everything,” she said.

Original article  by Erin Dietsche

This post was curated with edits by Gordon Fletcher, Principal Consultant(Engineering & Mobile Technology)  at Compumagick Associates can be reached at https://www.compumgickassociates.com/contact, @compumagick