Brandie Linfante (left) and Martha Maranzani


By Brandie Linfante, VP Digital Engagement Strategy, and Martha Maranzani, VP Content Strategy, Ogilvy CommonHealth Worldwide


Voice search (such as Apple Siri) and voice assistants (such as Google Home and Amazon ECHO “Alexa”) are on the rise, and it’s been predicted that by the end of 2020, 50% of interactions with technology will be through “conversations” with them. Even now, the way people are searching for healthcare information is changing due to voice technology. As such, voice technology has the potential to make healthcare more accessible to consumers and help HCPs save time and money in their practices. Healthcare organizations such as providers and hospitals are already piloting voice applications for their patient populations, and it’s time that pharma jumps into the voice fray. How does voice technology fit with your brand, and what are some things you need to consider when creating a voice application?


Disrupt or Be Disrupted

There are many digital disrupters in the market today, including blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and robotics. But voice technology has emerged as the fastest consumer tech adoption in history, outpacing even smartphones, becoming pervasive across multiple consumer outlets such as search, television, cars, watches, mobile devices, and more. This is due to the fact 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. Advances in machine learning means that voice technology’s recognition of language is at 95% of human parity, rivaling human accuracy. Combine that accuracy and the fact that microphones will soon be everywhere, and voice technology is on track to be the biggest digital disruptor of them all.

When considering adding voice technology to your marketing mix, understand that voice is not a stand-alone strategy and should be incorporated into a larger holistic digital ecosystem. Since voice technology is embedded and prevalent across multiple platforms, don’t limit your exploration to just voice assistants like Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Think about your users and how voice technology can solve specific challenges they are facing.


Improving the Patient Experience

Voice technology is hands- and eyes-free, and elderly and visually impaired patients find that voice assistants can improve their quality of life. Smartphone apps can be challenging for these populations because of the small interface and keyboard. With voice technology, a patient only needs to speak and hear responses to control the app interactions. In this way, being able to communicate hands-free, vision-free, and from a distance without having to move across a room can give these patients a tremendous quality of life benefit.

Skills that monitor daily activities and adherence can now be accessible to patients who are physically or visually impaired, empowering them in their own care. By enabling patients to control their own care, caregiver burden can also be significantly cut, improving quality of life for both patient and caregiver alike.

Voice technology can also be a valuable asset in post-discharge care, providing at-home education for patients and caregivers, augmenting the nurse staff, and driving clinical efficiencies.  It can provide dynamic assistance for patient member services by enhancing call center support.  These voice applications need to be both reactive and proactive to a patient’s needs, as well as predictive and process-aware, knowing when to hand off care and communication to a human, to whom, and why. 


Helping HCPs Find Balance

The goal of the Triple Aim—enhancing patient experience, improving population health, and decreasing costs of patient care—is being expanded into Quadruple Aim, adding the goal of improving the work life of HCPs, both physicians and staff. Voice technology is uniquely poised to hit all four of these objectives. As HCPs strive to improve patient care, they deal with the constant barrier of not having enough time. Voice technology can drive efficiency against time not currently spent with patients and will allow HCPs to focus on the patient interaction and not the documentation of the visit. Additionally, voice applications can help give HCPs visibility into patient wellness between visits, which can help with management of elderly and chronically ill patients. This can be a boost to better patient experiences, better outcomes, and lower associated costs, all while improving the work life of HCPs.


Finding Your Voice

If you are ready to embark on voice initiatives, start with a user-centered experience. Learn everything you can about your target users and let that drive your strategy. Consider your users’ needs, their capabilities, and the exact challenges you are trying to solve for them. Then plan out your content. What content will solve those challenges for your users? Once your content is set, plan out the interactions through user journey mapping.  Finally, set up a measurement plan so you can measure whether your voice application is working as intended.

Trust is vital when building a voice app. Build human empathy into the experience, always being mindful of the user and humanity of the interaction. Understand the limitations of voice and that it won’t work for everyone (stroke victims, speech impaired). Pilot, learn, measure, analyze—and continuously repeat.  Before long, voice technology will truly revolutionize healthcare as we know it. Soon we will be living in an even more vocal world.