Voice-enabled personal assistants seem to be headed for ubiquity in the consumer world. Market research firm Gartner predicts consumer demand for voice devices such as Amazon Echo and Google Home will generate $3.5 billion by 2021. But they are not confined to living rooms, telling you the day's weather or reading out news briefings. Intelligent voice assistants are slowly but steadily being adopted in healthcare. Several hospitals, such as Boston Children's Hospital and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, are experimenting with voice assistants and conversational artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to provide relevant information and answer queries of patients and medical staff.
The use of AI assistants in healthcare is making alternative care models that improve patient engagement at home more relevant. However, AI assistants continue to struggle with fundamental issues around speech recognition, user identification, privacy, and data security. Designing a virtual care experience requires precision and a comprehensive understanding of the implications of malpractice for all parties involved, at all stages from software development to the delivery of care. Over time, AI assistants will evolve to become a key component of home-based healthcare, but until then, most will be limited to low-risk tasks that pose no threat to patients. The design, implementation, and management of voice experiences for AI assistants such as Alexa and Google Assistant is key for companies interested in using voice as an interface for smart solutions.
Amazon ( NASDAQ: AMZN) has introduced a new healthcare application which interfaces with electronic health records and significantly improves patient and clinician interaction. Amazon Transcribe Medical digitally converts speech ( patient and medical professional conversations) via a microphone feed to text for inclusion within clinical documentation and other healthcare data records. Amazon Transcribe Medical can accurately process spoken dialogue plus medical and pharmacological descriptions and clinical terminology aligned with medical professional and patient discussions. The application can populate electronic health records ( EHR) that is also referred to as electronic medical record ( EMR) which healthcare professionals and their provider organizations use to record and manage patient data. In healthcare and an array of other industries, advances in voice recognition and transcription technology are widely welcomed and highly anticipated.
Andrew Rebhan, MBA is a health IT research consultant with Advisory Board of Washington, DC. Natural language processing (NLP) techniques allow digital systems to streamline user interactions allowing machines to read text, understand meaning, and generate narratives from existing information. Recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have accelerated progress in a broad range of NLP applications for healthcare, including digital assistants for clinical staff, concierge services for patients, and digital scribes to streamline documentation processes. For example, last Fall Nuance Communications released its Dragon Medical Virtual Assistant to help health care providers interact with clinical workflows using NLP and other conversational AI functionality. Nuance announced at HIMSS18 that it will integrate its virtual assistant technology into Epic's EHR.