Technology providers are pushing voice assistants to become a bigger part of consumers’ lives, and given the growing connectivity of things, voice assistants is set to play an operator role to give full control to the user. Up until now, voice assistants have been part of consumer electronics whether it is Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, Google Now or Microsoft’s Cortana. These interactive and sometimes intelligent applications are now making their way to healthcare.
At the 2016 Connected Health Conference, connected care provider Orbita showed a version of Alexa on an Amazon Echo device that supported home healthcare in various functions including medication management, patient monitoring and care coordination. In this iteration of the software, Alexa is able to facilitate reporting of clinical data e.g. measurement of vitals, but also conduct conversation that comes close to triage. Orbita is working on supporting other voice assistants from Apple, Google and Microsoft, and will have these ready by HIMSS 2017. Also, Google announced its conversation actions for Google Home and among these partners are WebMD. In other words, Google Home will provide users the ability to be interactive with WebMD’s vast database of medical information.
It is obvious why efforts are put into integrating these voice assistants in healthcare. As the care continuum is expanded, and more services are transferred from within hospitals and clinics to the home, some mechanism should act as the red thread – Alexa, Cortana, Google and Siri could do this. However, the issue is the current lack of sophistication of these assistants. They are simply not consistent enough and do not come close to being intelligent. This leaves room for human error, which is too risky in healthcare, and also why the first iterations of using voice assistants for healthcare services cannot be too clinical. Care coordination and medication reminders make sense, but reporting actual clinical data through an interactive voice assistant should require additional assurance at this moment of time, let alone performing medical triage.
Where we want to be at some point is the idea of having a Jarvis (Tony Stark’s AI assistant in Iron Man). There would be no user experience, but a powerful artificially intelligent presence, that truly would glue a connected life together, even in healthcare.
For questions or inquiries, please contact Roeen Roashan, Roeen.Roashan@ihsmarkit.com.