HiMSS 2019: A Sneak Peak at Voice-Enabled Tech in Healthcare

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Well, I can officially check “attend HIMSS” off my conference bucket-list. As the largest healthcare IT event in the world, it was exciting to see how the industry is evolving to meet patient and provider needs. Between the mile-long exhibit hall, numerous networking events, and hundreds of session options, there was no shortage of learning opportunities. Shout out to the kind ladies who let me play pretend-surgeon with the DaVinci surgical robot.

Among all the learning, I was most fascinated by the use of consumer-technology, specifically voice-enabled tech such as Google Home, Amazon Echo, etc. – in driving healthcare change.

The adoption rate of voice-enabled technology is even faster than that of mobile applications. In other words, this technology is ending up in many homes. As with any new technology, though, there are opportunities and challenges. Most Americans own smartphones yet the question remains: How can vendors and providers leverage the ever-growing mobile app economy to solve meaningful issues and scale high-quality care? A common theme of the conference was about differentiating between the noise and the sound among technology options. Only time (and proven quadruple aim improvements) will tell!

There are already a variety of uses of voice-enabled technology, mostly fitting under two main categories: “reactive” and “proactive” engagement. A reactive program could be a user simply asking an Amazon Echo, “How should I treat a burn?” after burning a finger on a hot pan. Dr. Sandhya Pruthi, associate medical director for content management and delivery for global business solutions at Mayo Clinic, spoke in-depth about their Mayo First Aid Clinic program. I invite you to read more about this program, here.

Proactive programs, on the other hand, would be those that push relevant content to a user based on a certain trigger, bio-marker, or data point captured.

Both types of voice-enable engagement offer varying levels of opportunity and potential for wider consumer adoption. Perhaps the most powerful potential use of this technology is using voice-enabled tech as a diagnostic tool. Think about how powerful and accurate facial recognition has become (hello, main iPhone screen). Now imagine being able to detect subtle changes in a patient’s voice to help identify a decreasing mental and/or physical condition, such as increased risk of dementia, coronary artery disease, and more.

Additionally, think about a post-surgical patient using voice-enabled technology to ask questions about their care and/or receive an overview of care instructions? What about patients using voice-enabled technology instead of the red call button, as sort of an “inpatient nursing assistant”. That way, nurses could better prioritize the acuity of patient needs. When more information is verbalized, clinicians are better able to assess a patient’s voice or perhaps help reduce falls.

While the above contains just a few examples of how new and emerging technology can be leveraged to meet patient and provider needs, it’s clear patient engagement is a focal point for providers and great things are yet to come!

Phil Weiss is an enterprise client success manager at CipherHealth and an up-and-coming leader at the intersection of Healthcare, Technology, and Client Success.


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