Home assistant speaker sitting on a table

First Look – Home Assistant Solutions Will Drive New Levels of Patient Engagement

The Problem: Population Health and Wellness Initiatives Require Improved Patient Engagement

While EHRs, patient portals, and mobile applications are being designed and implemented to improve patient engagement with providers, expected adoption by patients is not being achieved. In many cases, this is because the patient engagement applications lack an intuitive design for patients to easily learn and use. A recent Accenture Digital Health Consumer Survey[1] shows that consumers select medical providers that refill prescriptions electronically (77%), send reminders for preventive or follow-up care (70%), or manage appointments online (68%). Many organizations struggle to accommodate these consumer needs with a single patient engagement solution.

Improving patient engagement is likely to improve patient-provider communications, result in higher quality of care, drive increased care delivery efficiency, and reduce costs[2]. As providers move from fee-for-service to fee-for-value reimbursements, the ability for providers to coach patients to help them actively participate in their healthcare will be a key component for financial viability. Consumers’ participation in their healthcare will be necessary as preventive healthcare and wellness initiatives become the foundation for patient-focused care. Preventing patient readmissions, ensuring medication compliance, and providing evidence-based medical guidance will improve the quality of care and outcomes. Providers must also pay attention to the administrative functions necessary to accommodate patient services to ensure higher levels of satisfaction and engagement. The ability to easily schedule services, pay bills, and contact providers for healthcare support are also vital components of patient engagement.

The Solution: “Hey Google, Order My Meds”

Voice assistants offered by Amazon (Alexa), Google (Google Home), Apple (Home), and Microsoft (Cortana Home Assistant) provide a new level of opportunities to drive patient engagement services to higher levels of utilization and satisfaction with their smart home capabilities. These home-based virtual voice assistants have developer tool sets that provide vendors and healthcare organizations with the ability to modify these systems for specific capabilities. As an example, Cedars-Sinai is piloting an Alexa platform (Avia) as a nurse interaction and patient entertainment assistant to improve patient services (i.e., checking weather updates and selecting TV channels and music).

Now, consider the impact that these home voice assistant solutions could have for care delivery and support. Imagine the ability to say, “Hey Google, order my meds,” and having this voice service understand and order the appropriate medications. Think of the impact that will have on medication compliance. The ability to communicate with the voice assistants to set up doctor appointments or request information on medical services would be extremely helpful. Connecting those voice assistants to medical devices in order to evaluate patient data for chronic diseases (e.g. diabetes) would help to effectively monitor, guide, and support certain patients with their health needs.

Other consumer services players will enter the market. I use Xfinity for my TV and internet services, and they have voice recognition capabilities. Therefore, cable service providers also have an opportunity to extend their services with healthcare solutions. Facebook now has a portal with Alexa voice services. Will they be the first to enable video as part of the home-based healthcare solutions?

The Justification: Integrating Home Assistant Products Will Improve Patient Engagement Adoption and Reach

Healthcare providers that enable linkages from their IT application services to the home assistant products from consumer services vendors will dramatically improve their patient engagement capabilities while likely improving customer satisfaction. Voice assistance products from Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft will continue to expand their capabilities for providing healthcare service access. The competition between these companies will drive cost-effective and efficient solutions. The ease of use and accuracy of the products’ voice recognition and ambient computing capabilities will enable higher levels of adoption by consumers. Improvements to patient satisfaction, medication compliance, and treatment compliance will likely be achieved with well-designed integration into the home assistance products.

The Players: The Expanding Universe of Consumer Service Players

Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft are well known for their voice-enabled home assistance solutions; cable vendors are also beginning to enter this market. A new player, Quil Health, is a partnership between Comcast and Independence Health Group. This partnership demonstrates the value that payers see in these solutions. Video capabilities added to the voice assistance solutions from Facebook Portal will further expand these capabilities into telehealth opportunities.

Success Factors

  1. Use results from the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) survey and the Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems Outpatient and Ambulatory Surgery survey (OAS CAHPS) to evaluate the patient engagement services for home assistants that will position the organization for improved results.
  2. Identify which home assistant or cable services are used the most by your consumers in order to target initial prototype projects that can be easily managed and evaluated.
  3. Validate which IT applications are enabled for patient engagement services with FHIR interoperability services.

Summary

Patient engagement services are entering the “final frontier” with the capabilities that are being introduced and expanded on by consumer services and cable companies. Organizations that do not pursue connecting their patient engagement solutions with these services will be challenged to meet the needs of the Gen X, millennial, Gen Z, and newly emerging populations that expect technologies to deliver convenience and ease of use. Search capabilities available in many of these solutions enable access to healthcare content; ensuring that this content is evidence-based, as well as providing improved administrative, financial, and health delivery services via these solutions, will be vital for surviving the transformation to population-based healthcare. Imagine being able to see a skin rash along with medical device data and medication information to provide an initial patient assessment and diagnosis. Imagine being able to provide a schedule for a home or clinic visit along with the amount of the service that is covered or not covered by that patient’s insurance. We have the technology. We just need the incentives and the proof of value, and those should be forthcoming.





    Photo cred: Adobe Stock, JuanCi Studio