Voice recognition technology has already made major inroads across several industries, from law enforcement to retail. It is estimated that the worldwide market for voice recognition will be worth around $184.9 billion annually by 2021, up from $104.4 billion in 2016.
What’s more, 50 percent of all searches will be conducted by voice as early as next year, according to the Website Magazine.
In the healthcare industry, as AI-powered voice assistants mature, this technology will have the potential to cause major disruption by changing the way patients interact with providers.
Some of the largest healthcare companies are already experimenting with voice recognition technology. This includes pharma and insurance companies, healthcare researchers and startups, as well as nonprofits.
Part of a Larger Trend: Medical Device Software in Healthcare
Software has taken on a much more vital role in medical devices and the delivery of care. “Today’s health professionals expect a medical device to take care of major portions of diagnosis and treatment so that they can attend to a large number of patients in a short time,” according to Orthogonal.
Voice technology is an extension of this.
The applications of voice technology in healthcare are numerous. Among other benefits, voice tech streamlines provider-patient communication, and can enhance medication adherence.
Voice Tech and Voice Assistants
Voice tech, also known as speech recognition (SR), is an artificial intelligence (AI)- powered technology that translates speech into text. It is the robust technology behind such popular voice-activated smart speakers and voice assistants as Microsoft’s Cortana, Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Assistant.
Voice assistants are digital assistants that employ machine learning, speech synthesis, and natural language processing to help users through the use of voice recognition technology.
Let’s take a look at several examples that show how voice technology is changing healthcare:
In Hospitals and Smaller Practices
Voice Medical Records Access via Alexa
How it’s being used: Patients are using Alexa to access their medical records in private rooms. The New York-based hospital has installed Amazon Echos in private patient rooms. With Alexa, patients can easily and conveniently tap into their medical history and treatment records right from the comfort of their rooms.
2. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN
Heart Disease Diagnosis/Delivery of Wound Care Instructions
How it’s being used: The medical center uses voice tech to disseminate instructions for wound care to several surgical patients. It also uses voice recognition and voice assistants to help in the diagnosis of a selection of chronic conditions, particularly cardiovascular disease.
3. Sopris Health, Denver, Colorado
Sopris Assistant, a Voice Note Taker
How it’s being used: Based in Denver, Sopris Health has created a digital assistant that is designed to listen to patient-doctor conversations and convert them into text in less than 45 seconds. Sopris, the nifty voice tech-based assistant, loads the “speech” text into notes to which doctors can later return.
4. Yale-New Haven Health, New Haven, CT
EHR-Connected Voice Recognition Software for Physicians
How it’s being used: Ronald Vender, MD and Dr. Allen Hsiao, MD of Yale Medicine and New Haven Health system have developed a voice recognition system designed to help physicians streamline their care delivery workflow. The speech-to-text software helps tell patient stories, simplifies logins, and aids doctors when treating patients with complex medical histories. It also connects directly to the electronic patient record (EPR) system.
5. Boston Children’s Hospital, Boston, MA
Smart Speakers + Alexa
How it’s being used: Boston Children’s Hospital is planning a facility-wide use of voice recognition technology after conducting three successful pilot programs. The voice tech platform will allow nurses and clinicians to use smart speakers in different hospital settings, including surgical checklists, organ transplant verification, and ICU care.
6. Notable Health, San Mateo, CA
Patient-Clinician Interaction Recorder
How it’s being used: Just like Sopris Health, this San Mateo-based health tech company has developed a smart medical assistant powered by AI. Called Notable, the smartwatch app captures every interaction between clinician and patient.
7. Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, CA
Aiva, Alexa-Driven Platform for Patients
How it’s being used: The LA-based medical research center has installed several Amazon Echos in patient’s rooms. Thanks to Aiva, a voice recognition platform powered by Alexa, over 100 patients at the hospital can interact with clinicians, nurses and other caregivers right from their private rooms. “We are giving patients more entertainment options, more control over their environment and closer communication with their care team,” said Aiva’s founder, Sumeet Bhatia.
Unexpected Benefits of Voice Tech to Healthcare
8. Improved Posture and Health
Working in a doctor’s office all day can have health repercussions. Prolonged sitting, for one, can take a huge toll on a clinician’s posture and overall health. That’s where voice recognition tech comes into play. The software can be used while lying down in bed or even walking.
9. It’s a Blessing for People with Disability
Voice recognition software used in hospitals calls for only your voice. This is a godsent technology for handicapped patients and clinicians alike. Even more beneficial: voice tech is ideal for physicians and patients suffering from conditions such as arthritis, a condition that can make writing or typing incredibly painful.
Voice Clinical Transcription
How it’s being used: 3M’s M*Modal has created one of the most robust clinical conversational AI platforms. It is complemented by human transcriptionists. The voice tech platform offers plenty of financial benefits to healthcare providers, patients, and hospitals:
Alexa-Enable Platform for Diabetes Management
How it’s being used: According to Digital Authority Partners, Sugarpod by Wellpepper is one of the most revolutionary healthcare applications of Alexa. The 2018 winner of the Alexa Diabetes Challenge, Sugarpod uses the power of Alexa to help diabetic patients manage their treatments better and track their progress.
The use of voice recognition technology and digital assistants like Alexa and Siri in healthcare is exploding. Patients are already embracing voice tech. According to a Pew Research Center survey, 50 percent of adult internet users say they are interested in managing their health using voice assistants.
What are industry leaders saying about the future of voice recognition technology in the healthcare space?
“Perhaps the most powerful potential use of this technology is using voice-enabled tech as a diagnostic tool. Imagine being able to detect subtle changes in a patient’s voice to help identify a decreasing mental and/or physical condition, such as the increased risk of dementia, coronary artery disease, and more,” added Phil Weiss, CSM at CipherHealth.
Although voice recognition tech in healthcare is still in its infancy, it will continue to improve patient outcomes, make clinicians lives easier and reduce healthcare costs.