Voice Interfaces: Are They Digital Healthcare’s Next Shift?

Voice interfaces (like Google’s Siri) are rapidly becoming common in everyday device use.

After all, voice commands are easier to implement than text. And they come with a multitude of pros (such as mobility, ease of use anywhere, and time reduction). However, voice interfaces aren’t just a growing consumer option. They’re being adopted by many services, including the healthcare industry.

And this shouldn’t be a surprise. The reason is, voice interfaces can do so much more than simply Google search. Through a voice interface, it’s possible to sift through personal databases. It’s easier to communicate with customers. And, it gives consumers an extra contact option too! 

They’re Easy to Integrate.

Statistics show that by 2023, there should be over 8 billion devices in circulation that allow for voice assistance. That’s one device per person. And it means that this form of communication should be extremely common in the future!

How Does This Apply to Healthcare?

In the healthcare world, voice interfaces are starting to spread rapidly. The reason is, they offer a comfortable communication experience between clients and healthcare specialists.

Example – Record Access

It’s now easier to use healthcare software, without the need to rely on external hardware. It’s easier to keep track of patient records. It’s even easier to recall them through voice, without returning to a hospital database. And that access can happen using an internet connection, or special apps that are designed only for use by the healthcare professionals.

Voice Activated Communication.

Sometimes, time is of the essence in the healthcare world. And a place where that applies is a hospital emergency department. Voice interfaces can help in those locations. They allow communication between professionals through a distance, letting them stay in contact with other staff members.

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Medical transport is an excellent place where that can apply.

It’s an excellent idea to add communication between emergency ambulances and hospital staff. That’ll give staff hints on how serious a condition is before arrival (and in-detail). It also gives staff information beforehand on the resources to prepare for patient arrival.

And that concept can work without needing complex controls. Quick button access to the voice interface can be integrated, allowing quick calls. Or a special remote can be used that allows access to the voice interface channels.

Voice Interfaces Can Apply Outside of Hospitals Too.

Large organizations aren’t the only places where voice interfaces are used. They can also be utilized in more private settings, like working in homecare. For example, voice platforms can be used to help seniors check their medicine schedules. They can access those platforms to know when it’s time to receive a certain medication.

Also, voice interfaces can be used in homecare to design emergency systems.

Seniors can be given emergency buttons that are activated by voice command. And it lets them voice their requests quickly, allowing professionals to respond to their needs just as fast!

But Will Voice Interface be Widespread in Healthcare?

It is spreading. However, there are a few obstacles to the implementation of those interfaces. The starting obstacle would be financial. The costs of implementing voice systems can be high since each employee will need their own device.

Also, another issue is cross-organizational engagement. After all, it would be perfect if more than one organization (like a few hospitals) could collaborate together using voice systems. That’ll allow them to manage patient loads, and share resources when necessary for as many patients as possible.

Here’s a Breakdown of Factors that Affect Voice System Implementation

For starters, the human element has to be considered. On average, people speak four times faster than they can type. This makes the use of voice systems more immediate than text.

Also, people process what’s being said at half the speed of written text. So there might be a receptivity issue, where people don’t get as much detail registered through voice systems. As a result, voice systems might not be easy to use when communicating detailed assessments. Thus, they’re much better suited for micro-interactions, where many details don’t need to be memorized.

As an example, a full patient record can’t be communicated through voice. Only small details can be given at a time.

However, quick back-and-forth communication (for setting up appointments) is a possibility.

Literacy and Time – Both Important Factors

Voice can be an excellent way to provide information to patients. And the reason is, the majority of people read the information at a slower pace than a seventh-grade level (source).

The previous source looks at Americans specifically. And that being a first-world country (with high standards of education) means that the voice communication model should work well in lesser developed countries. However, for a patient-friendly system like that to work – it would have to be limited to common inquiries.

Basically, this system works best for FAQs between patients and healthcare providers. It works especially well when patients decide to contact healthcare customer service for information.

Voice Interfaces: They Can be a Diagnostic Tool Too

The previous analysis looks at voice interfaces as a method of communication. But what about voice interfaces as a medical tool? We think that voice interfaces might be a way of collecting diagnostic biomarkers. That is, voice interfaces can be developed to collect information on certain chronic diseases.

An example can be found at the University of Washington. Researchers, there are studying how voice biomarkers can pick up on neuropsychological conditions, like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer, and also depression. Through those voice biomarkers, it’ll be easier to see clues for those diseases in the future, allowing for early treatments!

This is all done with the use of AI. And that means that the voice technology developed can upgrade itself even further, honing its ability to pick up on diseases!

AI Use: Does it Apply to Communication Systems Too?

As AI develops, it should be able to integrate aspects of voice interfaces.

As an example, it’s easy to see AI and voice recognition merging together – where the AI can slowly to mimic human voices when speaking.

That should replace the often “robotic” voice that AIs often have.

The Consequences

People naturally prefer a human element in the services they receive. That is, they’ll prefer a natural voice more than an artificial one. And the result would be the widespread integration of natural voice interfaces in the healthcare world.

This applies especially to systems designed to help patients – where a natural voice may make those patients feel psychologically at ease. Additionally, a natural voice interface can be an excellent intelligent assistant in hospital rooms. It can be used for the analysis of conversations between patients and doctors.

Also, such an interface can be used where it brings up the medical history of a patient. It can also put in-motion instructions to modify schedules or to send a prescription to the pharmacy preferred by a patient.

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Final Note

Voice interfaces have massive potential in the healthcare world. They’re already a consumer staple and should be a handy tool for professionals. They can be used for diagnosis, communication between patients and professionals, in addition to being assistant tools. Their development potential is limitless, and it’s predicted that they’ll be in widespread adoption throughout the next few years!

Author: Pradeep Parthiban
Pradeep is a Content Writer and Digital Marketing Specialist at Indium Software with a demonstrated history of working in the information technology and services industry.