eTech Insight - Advances in Voice Services Will Apply to Healthcare - Cover

eTech Insight - Advances in Voice Services Will Apply to Healthcare

Consumers Expect Healthcare Services to Mimic Retail Capabilities

Healthcare has trailed digital service offerings that mimic what consumers experience with retail services. Small keyboard displays on smartphones lead to “fat fingering” input that leads to erroneous inputs and significant consumer frustration. Many large retailers are adding voice services to their ordering capabilities to improve the consumer digital experience. These services are referred to as “frictionless shopping alternatives.” Voice recognition engines by the large technology companies are advancing to be very accurate in dealing with different dialects and in understanding semantic context. But I still experience inaccuracies with Google when I’m using voice services to answer texts. Sometimes the translations are embarrassing!

Walmart is currently allowing voice recognition services from Amazon, Apple, and Google to interact with their shopping services. The recent acquisition of a cross-platform solution from a start-up called Botmock, which developed a set of tools for designing, prototyping, testing, and deploying conversational applications across platforms, will drive Walmart’s “conversational commerce” solutions. The Botmock tool will also design, test, and deliver conversational voice solutions for its digital shopping services.

Amazon Lex, the Amazon Web Services offering with built-in natural language understanding and automatic speech recognition for designing conversational interfaces using voice and text, can deliver more effective chatbots and provide a simpler approach for users to ask for information.

Healthcare organizations will need to adopt these same conversational voice capabilities to remain competitive in their markets.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) Advances Voice Recognition Services

AI applied to voice recognition services can identify a specific person. Fidelity uses this type of service when people dial into their customer service center to create a “voice print” to identify the member. People no longer have to provide 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. That ability will aid in providing secure healthcare information to patients.

Google Assistant has taken voice services to a new level with Family Link. This service provides a variety of activities from stories to games and learning tools for children and families, including some content provided by third-party developers. These voice capabilities can be used to guide family members to appropriate healthcare content, guide them to online therapies, or locate elderly family members. These types of voice recognition capabilities can also support acute care at-home services.

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

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

Retail Digital Services Set Consumer Expectations for All Digital Services

Retail web services set the expectations for healthcare web environments. Websites from Amazon, Costco, Walmart, and Target provided an intuitive design for consumers to find, review, and order products from these companies. They also predicted what other products the consumers might be interested in purchasing by including a statement saying, “Other people buying this product also purchased the following products.” Few healthcare organizations were able to create competitive websites with little penalty as they were the only game in town in most cases. But the game has changed with value-based healthcare and linking consumers to networks of care with their smart devices. Failure to provide conversational voice services to healthcare consumers could be a business catastrophe.

The Players: Retail Companies Entering Healthcare

Healthcare organizations should closely monitor retail companies such as Walmart, Walgreens, and CVS that are aggressively entering the primary healthcare markets. These companies have a deep understanding of how to engage patients in digital services. These companies will use the ambient conversational voice services from Apple, Google, and Amazon to support their customer services. Healthcare organizations must be able to compete.

Success Factors

  1. Provider organizations should begin to assess and test conversational voice services with their digital application solutions within their innovation centers.
  2. Specific healthcare services should be evaluated for introducing conversational voice services. Using voice services to allow people to schedule services more easily is an example.
  3. Voice recognition services should also be evaluated relative to security capabilities with digital patient engagement services.


Conversational voice recognition services supported with AI will become the application-navigation solution of choice for consumers and clinicians. Retail and financial service companies are quickly adopting and delivering new consumer-engagement services to conversational voice technologies. In an ideal world, consumers could access a healthcare-services application and navigate the application using their voice to select services, healthcare products, medication refills, and payment options. More sophisticated voice services with semantic and diagnostic capabilities could capture key patient information from patients to reduce administrative overhead, capture important health status information, and even diagnosis conditions (e.g., COVID-19).

The use of conversational voice for smart home devices (e.g., Amazon Echo, Google Nest Mini, Apple HomeKit) will be expanded to facilitate healthcare services, and progressive healthcare organizations will link these environments into their enterprise applications. Consumer engagement will achieve next-generation capabilities when consumers can connect to and operate a provider or payer environment using any conversational voice service on a smart device.

Photo credit: fizkes, Adobe Stock