Voice assistants have tremendously gained its popularity among the crowd leading to a third of the US population to use voice search features daily. It becomes a routine for people to set reminders, turn off lights, and even call people through such assistants. As easy as it might be for this part of society, there are challenges healthcare still face when dealing with voice assistants.
In this article, we will understand what role voice platforms can play in healthcare, what its’ benefits are, and if there is a hope for the future of its’ success in healthcare.
Voice in Healthcare
Providing a hands-free solution sounds appealing and attractive to any patient and even healthcare professionals. It helps ease work for these professionals by taking off some work that computers can do more efficiently. For patients, voice assistants can help with reminding about appointments to helping with understanding the health issues they are facing. Here, voice assistants have a multimodal approach; they can be used when patients are at home or when they are out in public/ at the hospital.
Such benefits however are accompanied by challenges including compliance and privacy. Voice assistants don’t face such difficulties in other industries but in healthcare, privacy is something crucial and is a concern for all. For example, HIPAA security rules states that any deployment of technology that adhere with HIPAA must have an automatic log off to stop unauthorized aches to Protected Health Information (PHI) when device is left unattended.
Nevertheless, Alexa achieved HIPAA compliance in 2019, meaning that Alexa voice assistant can be used in selected healthcare organizations. This huge step highlight how essential voice assistants are in helping patients in the healthcare system. Let’s explore deeper into why hospitals should be ready to start leveraging voice platforms as their new assistants.
1. Reducing Burnout of Healthcare Professionals
An underrated part of the healthcare system that deserves more attention is the fact that many of the professionals have a big burden and experience some kind of burnout. This is a threat not only to themselves, but also to their patients and the kind of treatment they will get. Therefore, solutions need to be thought about on how we can reduce the workload they carry. How can voice assistants help here? They can be helpful in taking a part of the work these professionals have been doing all along. By listening to both the patients and providers, they will transcribe everything that was being said and formulate it into information that can be stored. This saves a tremendous amount of time for professionals allowing them to focus more on the patients rather than note-taking and filling out paperwork. Voice assistants will then also be able to set appointments directly as they are appointed and remind patients through email/ SMS.
2. Voice Assistants as Part of Care Team
A big of society includes those who are in their old age, needing lots of attention and care. Some of them need urgent care and some might need non-urgent care. What is clear is that healthcare systems just don’t have the resources and capacity to take care of this amount of people. This is when voice assistants can come in handy. These voice assistants can set routine check-ups/ appointments and remind them when they need to go. With the advancement of natural language processing and AI, it is also easy for voice assistants to explain difficult health terms that they might need. Moreover, it can help loved ones check in more conveniently, helping communication not only within the home of the aging but also beyond. Catalia’s Health suite is an example of these voice platforms in action, making sure patients get the engagement they deserve.
3. Improving Medication Use
Patients can easily misuse their medication prescriptions, taking more dosage than needed or not remembering to take them at all. Such conditions lead to more health complications for these patients. Adults over the age of 65 usually need to take four or more prescriptions per day; this needs to be done throughout the day, at different times, and with different requirements. This involves a lot of memorizing and remembering, something that can be hard to achieve with age. This is when voice assistants can be beneficial- it can remind patients to take their medication at the right time and remind them of the steps they need to take. The software of these assistants can also take a step further and alert doctors if patients haven’t been using their medications properly.
4. Helping in the Patient’s Rooms
Voice assistants so far have been able to control some things in the patient’s room such as entertainment on TV or the lights. With the new advancement of voice assistants in compliance with HIPAA, more medically related controls can happen. For example, patients can ask about videos about their diagnosis for more information. They can also ask to change temperatures and the voice assistans can assess whether or not it is okay to do so for the patient’s condition. Such things can happen because of sensor technologies and remote patient monitoring which are technological solutions specified for these patients. These tools not only help patients but also help reduce workload of healthcare professionals, which we stated as something important.
The Future of Voice Assistants in Healthcare
The level of assistance these voice platforms provide for the healthcare system is a big step for this sector to help the majority of society. They have been able to overcome many challenges and create intuitive and user-friendly interfaces that people enjoy engaging with. However, it might be hard for many countries to implement into their healthcare systems. The US is an example of a good leading country in using these tools. However, for developing countries like Indonesia, it might be hard to implement in governmental hospitals due to financial issues. This means that a majority of the citizens in Indonesia will be unable to receive such benefits. They would need to travel or visit more costly hospitals to experience this. This challenge should be considered by the healthcare industry and also the technology industry.
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