Marketers tend to follow technological trends to understand how they can help influence and engage new consumer groups. According to eMarketer last year, 35.6m Americans used voice-activated assistants, a number that has doubtlessly grown in the past year since with Amazon Echo possessing 70% of voice device users. It is also doubtlessly the future of search, although perhaps not as integral as Comscore's prediction that 50% of all searches will be voice searches by 2020.
Healthcare, arguably more than any other sector, is affected by tech trends and with the growth in voice tech, it seems marketers have a new range of devices to work with.
“Voice technology will fundamentally change the experience of healthcare, perhaps more than it will any other industry,” confirms Brendan Gallagher, executive vice president of experience strategy and innovation at Digitas Health.
"It will impact every major player across the entire health spectrum — from patients to healthcare professionals (HCPs) to payers and integrated delivery networks (IDNs). Voice will offer brands the opportunity to meaningfully engage customers throughout their healthcare journey, but only if they respect the medium. For patients, brands will have new touchpoints in the home, like Northwell Health’s Emergency Room wait time Alexa skill. We’re also seeing voice being used in clinical settings, like Sonde Health, which recently went public with a patent that uses speech to measure vocal biomarkers for physical or psychological conditions. Or Pillo Health, a voice-enabled digital health platform that enables remote clinical trials and care plan delivery in post-market settings. Pillo recently won the Novartis Digital Health Companion Challenge at the VivaTech conference in Paris."
While the use of voice technology is not new, mobile phone companies, for example, have applied it through Siri and other operating devices for years now, as it becomes more widely adopted and normalized for users, it will open new opportunities for healthcare providers and brands.
“One of the things that makes voice technology so unique, is its ability to seamlessly integrate into a user’s current routines,” explains Aaron Horowitz, co-founder and CEO of children's health communications agency, Sproutel. “There is no learning curve to using voice interfaces, no online health portals to become familiar with, or new app interfaces to adapt to. As a result of this ease, voice interfaces are well suited to providing patients with contextualized information that can aid decision making, provide helpful reminders, and ultimately empower patients.”
He continues: “Health systems and hospitals like Northwell and Boston Children’s have already started to leverage this simple interface to provide users within the moment information - giving patients a picture of wait times in the ER before they leave home and even providing friendly reminders to take medication throughout the day. For these players, it’s powerful to tap into the existing userbases of Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple Homepod, to give people a personal medical concierge right in their living room.”
The more that brands adopt the technology, the more information they will be able to conveniently provide directly to people’s homes, when they are most in need of information and help, and the more personal insights that can be stored and shared on each owner.
“This could help customers change behavior, adapt to treatment plans, or even just feel supported,” adds Horowitz. “With so many players in the voice interface space, it’s a bit of a horse race to see who’s technology will emerge as the frontrunner. Currently, Amazon’s Alexa platform appears to be most widely accepted in the healthcare community, largely because of how easy they’ve made it for developers to build on to the Alexa platform. Alexa has an API to develop new skills and even hardware development kits that allow companies to prototype their own Alexa based solutions.”
Health offers a wealth of both data and money, and the growing adoption of voice will doubtless play its part in informing society on their ills, while informing marketers on when to attempt to communicate with those searching for certain symptoms in real-time and when relevant products and remedies are most in need.
The latest edition of The Drum magazine, on sale now, focuses on the trends within the healthcare marketing sector, available to buy from the website.