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Since the release of Siri on the iPhone 4s in October 2011, there has been a rapid increase in the number of voice-enabled applications being used across the world. Today, other big names like Amazon’s Alexa (now HIPAA compliant), Microsoft’s Cortana, and Google Assistant have joined the ranks of voice-based devices on the forefront of development. The range of uses for these platforms is widely varied, with specialized options geared toward the specific needs of the user. For many, these voice assistants greatly increase the ease of everyday tasks like placing calls, scheduling appointments, checking weather forecasts, and searching the internet. The appeal for this easy method of accessing information when it’s needed has become abundantly clear, and as a result, developers are working tirelessly to chart out the new territory. In their 2018 assessment of the status of voice technology and its implications in the healthcare space, PharmaLive notes that a major factor in its favor is that “voice is much faster than typing or texting—typical speech is 140 words per minute (wpm) on average, whereas typing is 40 wpm and texting is 24 wpm.” When it comes to technology, ease of use and speed are two of the most important factors developers focus on. By combining the far faster input method of voice vs text in a hands-free platform, it’s clear how this shift to voice input addresses these two vital components of development. To quantify the broad impact of implementing these systems, PharmaLive also mentions that it has been predicted that “by the end of 2020, 50% of interactions with technology will be through ‘conversations’ with them.”

However, one domain where voice-input implementation has seemingly been slower than expected is health care. At the surface, it would seem like health care is a frontier that is ripe for implementation of this booming technology. The tracking of health management goals, accessing educational resources, easier processing of prescriptions, and a more seamless connection between patients and clinicians are just a few of the ways that voice technology can greatly improve health-related services. Understandably, though, with the potential for such a broad transition of traditional systems to ones that are internet/cloud enabled, it is clear that security needs to be the first and largest concern.

Only recently Amazon’s Alexa was certified as HIPAA compliant, which allows for sensitive health information to be securely transferred using end-to-end encryption. This is a huge leap forward for the technology because the privacy and security of protected health information is of paramount importance to patients, providers, and HCPs. As a rollout to mark this new certification, Amazon has released six new Alexa functions (known as “Skills”.) Examples include Express Scripts, a tool for tracking prescription home deliveries; Cigna Health Today, an enrollment-based platform for employees with a Cigna health plan to check wellness goals; and Livongo’s apps for checking blood glucose levels. Recently, Merck has partnered with Amazon Web Services with plans to develop tools for people suffering from chronic diseases. The first steps involved the launch of the Alexa Diabetes Challenge, which called upon those who signed up to create inventive platforms for voice-enabled devices for patients with type 2 diabetes. The contest was won by Wellpepper with Sugarpod, a multimodal support system to help patients with diabetes manage their routines. You can learn more about this initiative at alexadiabeteschallenge.com.

Some would say voice devices are still in the infancy phase, but adoption is on the rise. The technology will continue to be refined. As our customers engage with these devices more and more in their daily lives, it won’t be long before marketers are asking agencies to explore this technology when it comes to brand planning. To learn more about how we can use voice for your brand contact damon.tutulic@sound-hc.com.

Written by Damon Tutulic

Director of Digital Experience

We are a full-service, independent, healthcare advertising agency that provides end-to-end, sound strategic thinking and creative, multichannel solutions to pharmaceutical and medical device clients.

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