By: Marc Sebes, VP of Product

“Alexa, tell my doctor I took my Blood pressure medicine… and tell Dominos to place my Easy Order.”

Last week, Apple announced their entry into the smart home speaker space with the HomePod coming later this year. The powerful wireless home speaker will compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home for a space in your kitchen or living room. But it’s actually the updates to Apple’s Digital Assistant, Siri, that signal the beginning of the Voice First era. Like its competitors, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant, Siri will open its Machine Learning AI to other apps, enabling us to complete everything from banking and commerce to playing games to managing our health, on any device, through our voice. As these technologies rapidly advance over the next year, we will see dramatic changes in the way that people interact with the world around them. Healthcare CIOs need to understand that this age is upon us and start planning today to make the right changes in their organization.

Once we understand that the Voice First era has started, we need to consider how this will impact healthcare providers. First, it will bring patient engagement opportunities unlike any we’ve had before. Imagine an assistant that reminds you take your medicine, records when you did it, asks you how you’re feeling, reminds you to do your physical therapy, and then guides you through each step. The value of patient engagement is clear, ranging from reduced readmissions to well patients that stay well.

To realize this value, though, CIOs will need to start accepting more patient generated data. In this new world, a hypertension patient steps on the scale in the morning and says “Alexa, tell my doctor I weigh 213.6 pounds”, and that weight data is used to track progress outside the clinic. If this weight is concerning, according to an algorithm, Alexa could respond with any number of follow up questions to help triage the patient. “How are you feeling this morning?”, “What did you have for dinner last night?”, “Please take your blood pressure before you leave the house”, etc. While we spend our time today ensuring that the data we receive from devices in patient homes is both reliable and verifiable, the future looks different. We will have the opportunity to collect patient reported outcomes in large volumes to improve care. While it is exciting, that data will look very different than the episodic data we store in the EHR today.

To start preparing for this rapidly approaching future, CIOs need to get started now. At Validic, we are having increasing conversations with healthcare providers around their voice, mobile, and “omni-channel” interface strategy for patient engagement and the continuity of care. As our customers and prospects weigh their options, we emphasize one important trend: there will not be a single winner in the personal digital assistant race. Instead, we will see Amazon, Apple, and Google joined by others. As the technology continues to advance and evolve, organizations will want to offer solutions that work on the platform that their patients choose.

The Voice First Conversation age has begun and healthcare has the opportunity to capitalize on it by focusing on patient engagement, collecting non-episodic data from the home, and preparing for the multiple technologies that will be an even more intertwined part of everyone’s life. With the right approach, we can make it more about improved health and less about how easy it is to order that pizza.

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