Largely unknown to many professionals, voice technology, or conversational artificial intelligence, offers a range of benefits beyond delivering general health information to consumers. Voice technology refers to technology that allows a computer to recognize spoken words. Voice processing involves two aspects: a) phonetic recognition of different words and b) the construction or interpretation of language as spoken. This rapidly evolving field, also known as natural language processing, has roots in biometrics and has a significant role in home healthcare as a remote patient monitoring device.
Voice technology applied to healthcare can facilitate the exchange of information between healthcare providers and patients and improve remote patient monitoring treatment and patient compliance monitoring. With natural language processing, computers can now understand what humans say and, more importantly, respond to them.
Ever-improving computing power is driving the emergence of voice technologies in healthcare. Moreover, the development of wearables and voice-based technology gives focus and direction, spawning innovation with groups such as home healthcare.
In a HIMSS21 Digital session, experts explained how speech recognition could help control remote patient monitoring devices and personal health devices. For example, David Metcalf of UCF’s Institute for Simulation and Training, and Teri Fisher, of the University of British Columbia discussed voice technology during their HIMSS21 Digital session. Outlining the advances in voice technology that are spurring telehealth development, they explained how the combination of chatbots, text, and voice in telehealth can now provide patients with the right healthcare services at the right time. These experts also pointed out that these devices can encourage healthy habits at home at a relatively low cost. They also pointed to how this technology is already being used for voice-based diagnostics and treatment. They mentioned significant voice technology advancements for home healthcare, including those developed to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s. For a quick glimpse into this body of research, see the Medical Life Sciences summary article entitled, Developing AI technology to detect early signs of Alzheimer’s disease.
Other studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of voice technologies in detecting Parkinson’s disease in the early stages. Researchers Sanjana Singh and Wenyao Xu published the results of their study involving the collection of voice samples to aid in diagnosing Parkinson’s. They analyzed 1,000 voice samples in the mPower (mobile Parkinson Disease) study, which collected 65,022 voice samples from 5,826 unique participants. They reported 99.0% accuracy of diagnoses in under a second, a remarkable improvement in accuracy and efficiency compared to previous clinical diagnosis approaches. Other studies focus on using voice technology to help reduce early signs of Parkinson’s, using common consumer voice technology devices such as Alexa. See Voice-assisted Devices May Help Patients to Speak More Clearly for details.
Home Health Use of Voice Technology
When applied to home health, patients, managers, and caregivers can receive information from medical records at the touch of a button to make quick and easy decisions. These voice recognition, language processing devices can also provide information about schedules, waiting lists, and available units in hospitals. What’s more, nurses can also use these devices to learn new treatment protocols or quickly get an update when in need. The introduction of voice technology in personal health devices and remote monitoring devices will also help patients interact with user interfaces more efficiently.
While much of this research has been ripening behind the scenes for decades, the catapulting of focus on technology by the COVID pandemic has led to a boom in the already growing home health care market for personal digital devices. While many people have already turned to voice-enabled devices like the Amazon Echo to manage routine household tasks, these devices are becoming much more visible as consumers focus on ways to integrate them into a healthy home environment.
Developers’ vision in this arena is that voice-enabled devices will become the hub of healthcare for the patient. They envision the day when home healthcare consumers will routinely be able to speak to a device the same way they would talk with their physician for education and more. It is also conceivable that such devices will be used in behavioral healthcare. These devices are being developed to guide consumers through their overall health needs in addition to helping people manage their daily routines.
The Future of Voice Technology in Home Healthcare
Voice technology can impact healthcare in profound ways. As voice technology becomes more prevalent, it will likely address significant challenges in the healthcare industry on a larger scale. However, there is still a lot of work ahead. For these interventions to be safe, it is imperative that experienced healthcare professionals participate in developing remote patient monitoring, natural language processing, and other home healthcare devices.
Healthcare is a market rife with impactful use cases for voice technology. This potential presents tremendous opportunities for the significant technological reshaping of healthcare worldwide. The active involvement of experienced healthcare professionals is essential in the development of this field.
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