Healthcare should follow retailers’ lead in voice recognition

Organizations need to adopt the same conversational voice capabilities as Walmart and other consumer retail companies to remain competitive.

Small keyboard displays on smartphones lead to users “fat fingering” inputs, resulting in errors and significant frustration. To deal with this, many large retailers are adding voice services to ordering capabilities to improve consumers’ digital experiences. These voice services are referred to as “frictionless shopping alternatives.”

Healthcare organizations need to adopt the same frictionless capabilities to remain competitive in their markets.

Improved accuracy

Voice recognition engines made by large technology companies are making fast progress to be very accurate in dealing with different dialects and understanding semantic contexts. And many retailers are taking advantage of these advances.

Walmart, for example, is allowing voice recognition services from Amazon, Apple and Google to interact with its shopping services. The retailer’s recent acquisition of a cross-platform solution from a start-up called Botmock will drive its “conversational commerce” solutions.

Botmock developed a set of tools for designing, prototyping, testing and deploying conversational applications across platforms. The Botmock tool also will allow Walmart to design, test and deliver conversational voice solutions for its digital shopping services.

Meanwhile, Amazon Web Services offers Amazon Lex, which includes built-in natural language understanding and automatic speech recognition for designing conversational interfaces using voice and text. It can deliver effective chatbots provides a simple approach that allows users to ask for information.

The Role of AI

Artificial intelligence can be applied to a voice recognition service to identify a specific person.

For example, Fidelity Investmentsuses this type of service when members dial in to their customer service center to create a “voice print” to identify that member. As a result, a user no longer has to give their name, address, mother’s maiden name or other data to gain access to their Fidelity account. As soon as they are connected and speak, the system recognizes who they are.

This same approach could help provide patients with secure access to their healthcare information.

Google Assistant has taken its voice services to a new level with Family Link. This service provides access to a variety of activities, including stories, games and learning tools, including some content provided by third-party developers.

Google Assistant’s voice capabilities could also be used to guide family members to appropriate healthcare content or online therapies or to locate elderly family members. These types of voice recognition capabilities could also support acute care-at-home services.

Apple has improved Siri's voice capabilities on iOS devices. This will make Siri considerably faster and, in some cases, allow it to function without a Wi-Fi or data connection. This advancement of Siri also resolves some security challenges Apple experienced with iOS versions older than iOS 15.

Applying these AI-enabled voice recognition capabilities to digital healthcare applications could enable patients to more easily schedule doctor visits, order medication refills, provide payment information and access patient portal services and their personal health information.

A competitive issue

Healthcare organizations should closely monitor the activities of Walmart and other retailers, such as Walgreens and CVS, which are aggressively entering the primary healthcare market.

They will use the ambient conversational voice services from Apple, Google and Amazon to support their customer services.

As a result, it’s essential that healthcare organizations take similar steps.

Provider organizations should begin to assess and test conversational voice services with their digital application solutions within their innovation centers. They can start out on a small scale, for example, by applying voice services to allow patients to more easily schedule services.

Healthcare organizations also should consider the role that voice recognition services could play in enhancing security capabilities as well as digital patient engagement services.

Patient satisfaction

Frictionless shopping alternatives will drive higher levels of patient satisfaction.

And voice recognition capabilities are continually improving. For example, Google is working on Project Euphonia to improve voice recognition for people with impaired speech conditions that could impact the accuracy of voice recognition.

The ability to use voice recognition for patient identification, application navigation and operation, and improved voice-to-text communication will create a digital environment that is likely to establish patient loyalty. Patient loyalty will be important for providers who participate in value-based care programs because it will provide the foundation for keeping patients in-network for their care services.

Equipping telehealth environments with frictionless voice capabilities will enable clinicians to provide more efficient care while improving encounters for patients. As healthcare delivery moves to patients’ homes, creating services that allow patients to easily communicate and interact with their care providers using voice recognition services will enable many people who are technophobes or inexperienced technology users to more easily participate in virtual care.

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