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Market Overview for Technology for Aging in Place

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Voice First and Health – What’s notable and not so much?

You probably knew this – that 2018 was the year of voice tech and healthcare.  Summits were held, experts have declared, pilots were piloted, partnerships formed, enthusiasm reigned, and so it has gone. As for 2019, according to Sara Holoubek, CEO of Luminary Labs, "expect a proliferation of bad voice experiences." 

C​onsider the healthcare experiences we have endured – it’s a good time to consider a new way to interact with the health system. From a technology perspective, what is each players doing to help us use our voice to have a better health and patient engagement experience?   Are any of these initiatives tuned to the needs of older adults?

Amazon Alexa:  They’re building a health and wellness team, and can list more than 1000 health and wellness skills, though only 13 pop up that are loosely related to older adults.  Observers have high hopes, both for Atul Gewande’s role leading the Amazon – Berkshire Hathaway – JP Morgan Chase partnership – and for ways Alexa can assist patients and doctors, maybe considering Suki for Doctors, the model of KidsMD or its partnership-based Flu Doctor Skill.  Caring for children is moving right along – how about more for the elderly, who consume so much more healthcare?

Google Actions/Assistant:  Google is already perceived by some as better at answering questions via Google Assistant. Google offers a long list of assistance with health and medicine questions, fitness exercises and tips, and symptom checkers.  It also has powered Doctor.com, which offers MDs assistance with practice management. The Google Assistant Investment Program has placed an undisclosed amount into Aiva Health, using voice to "empower patients and seniors, but also to connect them more closely to their caregivers." 

Siri, Cortana, Bixby – not much positive news yet:  Siri is rich in apps, but short on voice enablement of them, not long ago, Apple introduced Siri shortcuts -- enablers to easily access by voice what you do most often, according to observers, not yet  a match for Google Assistant or Alexa.  Cortana has enabled a few skills that are also available on Alexa and Google, like AskMyBuddy.  As for Bixby, its features can be integrated with Samsung Health (Mobile First) – for example, activity stats.  However, for Voice First, Samsung is biding its time, okay with being Voice Second or even Third.