Technology and technological development do not always have to be destructive, but of course, new technologies can fundamentally change consumer and user behaviour. However, if you think about the changes ahead of time and adapt, you will be on the move in a “contemporary” way. The advance of Voice Assistants is a development that will fundamentally change consumer behaviour, communication, exchange and the user journey – also in the healthcare industry.
The use of Voice Assistants is by no means limited to Siri or Google Assistant. With the use of smart speakers, the topic is much bigger and broader. We will see a number of new voice-enabled devices. The Voice Assistants will no longer be a restricted to smartphones, tablets and smart speakers, rather the Voice Assistants will become an integral part of the “white goods” too. Voice Assistants can and will massively change search behaviour, consumer behaviour and user behaviour. This also affects the industrial sectors that have been spared major changes in the past 15-20 years and did not necessarily have to adapt to the new rules of the game, which always pose a challenge due to digitisation. One such area is the healthcare area.
Smart speakers in the hospital
For the most part, due to the increasing usage and consumer acceptance of Voice Assistants, communication and information topics will become more relevant. It doesn’t matter whether it is communication between patients and doctors, health insurance companies with hospitals, or patients with pharmacies, it will change. There used to be only a radio in a patient’s room, and now a television is standard, both in single rooms and in multi-bed wards. Of course, smart speakers, in which the Voice Assistants are integrated, will also be part of hospitals too. From today’s perspective, it may sound unimaginable, but in a few years, if smart speaker usage is classified as contemporary, we will also see smart speakers in hospitals. This enables patient entertainment, patient communication with medical assistants and with the outside world, as well as information about the operating room and disease diagnosis or medical reports.
Communication can be 1: 1 or one-to-many or many-to-one. In principle, it is data and information that is currently available or made available in digital form. Accordingly, the wheel does not have to be completely reinvented for the integration of data in Voice Assistants. The data could be read, forwarded, saved, sent and explained by Voice Assistants on request. With Voice Assistant Skills, consumers can ask the Voice Assistant for help booking an appointment, accessing post-hospital discharge instructions, checking the status of a prescription delivery, and more.
The exchange of information between patients and hospitals, medical clinics, pharmacies and health insurers has so far only been possible in paper form and digitally. The next level is that the exchange via Voice Assistants and voice-based technologies will also be considered normal. The transformation from paper to digital has been accompanied by great scepticism in many countries. We will experience the same for voice applications.
Voice Assistants and the Skills/Actions for information, communication and sales could also be relevant for pharmacies. Even if many believe that the “pharmacy around the corner” is not being searched for, and customers are coming anyway, it is virtually impossible to find a pharmacy that does not have its own website. There are many reasons for this, starting with the visibility in the target group, “Be present where the target group is looking and lingering”, because the competitor pharmacies have their own websites, or because you want to present yourself in a contemporary manner. For many pharmacies, it is also essential that at least the opening times or contact information (e.g. telephone number) can also be found in search engines when the customer does searches for a pharmacy on the Internet. When the point of search moves from “Search Engine Only” towards Voice Assistants and “let search” through Voice Assistants, you will notice how important it is to be present in the world of Voice Assistants. Especially if online pharmacies take advantage of quick adjustments to the new Voice Assistant categories and show new touchpoints, the “stationary” pharmacies will come under even more pressure. The most important thing for users is that they get the information exactly where they are.
Better Customer Experience
Eight to ten years ago many companies underestimated the shift from desktop usage to mobile and thus no longer reached some target groups. Could pharmacies also afford to ignore those customers, patients and users who in the future will search more and more via Voice Assistants and smart speakers?
You can use Voice Assistants for a better customer experience. For example: It often happens that prescription drugs or even over-the-counter goods are not always immediately available in branches and the patient has to come again for the collection. Via Voice Assistants, the patient is able to find out from home whether the goods are available. Pharmacies can also offer a mechanism where patients can be informed directly via Voice Assistants from the pharmacy when the goods/medication has arrived. The pull and push communication strengths of Voice Assistants could be used for better customer service. Pharmacies can also offer their offers, discount coupons, sweepstakes, free samples or other promotions through Voice Assistants.
For pharmaceutical companies, it will mean that it is no longer enough to have their own website for product and brand information. In the future, the information will also have to be made available via Voice Assistants. The Voice Assistants do not automatically know what the companies are doing, what products they have or what offers are available. If such specific information is requested from users via Voice Assistants, one must be present with an Alexa Skill or Google Action. Just like the opportunities in eCommerce, the voice commerce opportunities will also play a role for pharmacies. Also, direct exchange with customers via Voice Assistants will be essential in the near future.
Query blood sugar level via voice
Health insurance company communication and information exchange with patients can also work via Voice Assistants. For example, members can ask Voice Assistants for their latest blood sugar or blood pressure values. On request, the information can also be sent directly to health insurance companies or the family doctor. Based on this, the historical values can be queried at any time and predictions and prescriptions made if necessary. Health insurance companies could offer Skills that provide information, news or about recovery after an operation.
For the healthcare media, this means that in addition to print, TV and digital, they must also be present in the Voice Assistant area. The users consume content of different genres in different ways. The expectations are different depending on the genre. Healthcare media companies have to think about a “Voice User Interface”. Some publishers and media houses will feel overwhelmed. Now that the transition from print to digital is over, the next challenge is just around the corner.
Voice Assistants and smart speakers can be just as interesting for old people’s homes. Residents can get entertainment, information, communication and answers in audio and visual form. Simple Voice Assistant Skills could help activate the cognitive Skills of people with dementia. An “always there” assistant could mean more quality of life for single residents.
Especially in connection with healthcare and Voice Assistants, data protection concerns are always referred to in several countries without knowing exactly how Voice Assistants, smart speakers, data usage, and data analysis really work. The selective perception that Voice Assistants are bad when it comes to data protection should be a thing of the past.