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Voice, health, wellbeing -- notes from January 2020 report

Is the healthcare consumer ready for voice assistants? Not quite.  There is a technology overhaul underway – the biggest change in user experience since the introduction of the web browser in 1991. Voice First technology – the ability to use natural language to speak to and be spoken to by devices and software – has become at least one mandatory user interface in every business and consumer interaction.  From Voice recognition technology to Smart Speakers to Voice Assistants, it is now pervasive – in the year 2020, 50% of all searches will be by voice. From a sheer quantity standpoint, the plethora of devices from Amazon (claiming sales of 100 million gadgets at the end of 2018, plus a dozen new ones introduced for the 2019 holiday sales period) captures the stampede nature of the market.  However, by end of January, 2019, Google claimed to have Google Assistant running on 1 billion devices – and by the summer, began declaring a new version – Google Assistant 2.0.

Optimism in the healthcare ecosystem remains high.... By 2016, experiments inside the hospital ecosystem were beginning – KidsMD launched at Children’s Hospital in Boston, a pioneering Alexa skill to help patients and families with generalized wellness advice. Amazon’s release of HIPAA compliance tools has made personalizing the interaction feasible.  Improving patient satisfaction and boosting staff efficiency driver of deployment in hospitals. Providence St. Joseph Health has an Alexa skill to book same day appointments.  One of the earliest Voice/Healthcare innovators, Orbita, recently launched Orbita Assist acts like a call button, using voice for connecting patients to the nurse’s station. And multiple hospitals are adding voice skills to improve patient engagement, provide post-discharge instructions. One significant use may be in transcription of physicians’ notes and orders – eliminating the evenings spent typing into an EHR system to catch up from the day – and ideally reducing physician burnout.

The healthcare consumer isn't ready -- and it’s a good thing – Voice Assistants aren’t either.  According to research by, consumers are somewhat interested in using voice assistants to answer questions of their various voice assistants.  Although 51% indicated an interest in using a voice assistant in a healthcare use case, 92% had not done so – yet. In MedTech Boston research performed by Dr. Matt Cybulsky, PhD and Bradley Metrock, the researches created a measurement called “VHI – The Voice of Healthcare Index.”  It was computed based on the percentage of 300 health-related queries that Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, Cortana, Bixby and Hound (from SoundHound) were able to recognize.  Question categories included: Illegal drugs, legal drugs, medical centers, healthcare companies, isolation and symptoms/pathology.  Although Google Assistant was deemed as the Voice Assistant “most ready” as of March, 2019, all needed improvement. All were stuck on location-specific responses – if you are in location A, want the best hospital by  specialty, best must be ‘nearest’, regardless of whether they are viewed as ‘best’ by any measure. 

[More to follow in January 2020]



Both providers and consumers are WAY ready for a simpler, more intuitive user interface. Voice assistants hold an advantage on that front. Content and app search functionality is not yet what we’ve come to expect but it will catch up given whose behind this tech. That just leaves it open to entrepreneurs to find the right use cases and business models. Early days there but some like WellSaid are already seeing traction. I suspect we aren’t alone.

Where did you get the data point that in 2020, "50% of all searches will be by voice"?

From, a percentage that originated with ComScore and was a slight distortion of the original prediction.


Great article, yes i agree, we aren't there yet with Voice tech but the improvements even in the past 5 years have been massive. I really think that in another 5 years, the technology will have overcome the major hurdles and that voice interaction will be normal. here's hoping anyway!!


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