Podcast: Amazon Alexa and the Potential of Voice Assistants for Healthcare

Can digital voice assistants for healthcare improve outcomes, increase efficiencies and protect patient data?

Digital voice assistant technology such as Amazon’s Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant are seeing climbing adoption rates and more mainstream consumer acceptance, and that’s only projected to grow over the next few years. The rise of Alexa and her peers also begs a question: How will digital voice assistants change healthcare?

That’s what this episode of Data Book is all about. Suki, Orbita and other health-tech startups are already bringing voice assistant technology to the clinic. Early results are promising — though, in some cases, unverified — but it will take quite some time before healthcare understands how exactly voice assistant technology will shape the industry.

Still, if you ask our guest, health-tech KOL John Nosta — a writer for Forbes and a member of Google Health’s advisory board and our editorial board — voice assistant technology is the most exciting emerging trend in medicine right now.

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Why? For one, voice can eliminate mundane tasks, lowering the electronic health record documentation requirements that have become tied to physician burnout and time away from patients. But Nosta also notes that a patient’s voice can actually contain unique identifiers, which might one day aid doctors in delivering diagnoses.

Perhaps what’s most exciting about voice assistant technology is what we don’t know. Early results suggest it will save physicians time, and that’s appealing. But in what other ways might Alexa or something similar improve healthcare? How about the bottom line and workflow efficiencies? Patient outcomes?

To explore the benefits of voice assistant technology, Data Book digs into Suki’s early progress, chronicling its birth and promoted benefits.

Then, to examine the flaws of digital assistants, we look at a disturbing incident involving the Amazon Echo. It may not be directly healthcare-related, but it certainly raises questions about data privacy and how the technology could adapt to the clinic.

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