“Hey Alexa, what is the weather today?”
— Smart Assistant users
The term ‘smart assistants’ refers to applications that can perform tasks for patients or healthcare professionals via voice, text and pattern recognition. Such systems use smart analytics to provide their services. Smart assistants is just one of many terms for the combination of artificial intelligence and language. Other names for this type of automated interlocutors include intelligent assistant, virtual assistant, digital employee, personal digital assistant, chatbot, bot and metabot.
Applications & benefits
Smart assistants are on the rise . Well-known examples include virtual assistants such as Google Assistant, Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. This type of system is now penetrating the healthcare industry . These digital assistants can record conversations between healthcare professionals and patients in real-time, for instance. These conversations tend to be unstructured, but the assistant converts them into structured, relevant clinical data for the patient file. After the consultation, a high-quality report is ready for verification. The technology underlying smart assistants thus contributes to continuous quality analysis of reports and provides simple points of improvement . This alleviates the administrative workload and makes follow-up processes more efficient by rendering reports more clearly, structured and in the same format [4, 5]. This allows a healthcare professional to retrieve the patient’s reports and lab results from the database during a consultation using a simple voice command. This saves healthcare staff a lot of time and computer actions in the long run. Experiments are under way involving the deployment of chatbots in hospital wards, blood donation and various home care functions . Smart assistants can also support the patient. Examples include simple question and answer systems that provide patients with answers to questions about their health or treatment. Chatbots offer support in symptom checks, provide medical and drug information and can book appointments autonomously. This allows for information exchange that can be linked to the patient’s medical information. Chatbots are also being trained to interpret body language and facial expressions in order to refine the (chat) conversation even further [3, 7]. In addition, unnecessary doctor visits are avoided as well as the associated expenses and travel time [4, 5]. Finally, the assistants can also function as a coach to provide the user with advice for their mental well-being or lifestyle .
The market value of smart assistants in healthcare is on the rise as the recognition capabilities for voice and text is becoming increasingly powerful. The global market for voice-operated virtual assistants in healthcare is expected to grow to $7.3 billion by 2025 . In 2020, the market value sat at $36.7 million . The global market value of chatbots in healthcare is expected to grow from $116.9 million in 2018 to $345.3 million in 2026 . In the United States, 7.5% of chatbot users has now used it for healthcare-related questions and over 52% of all users expressed the intention to do this more often in the future [10, 11].
Increased awareness and growing acceptance
Increasing pressure on the healthcare system
Changing healthcare needs
Increasing emphasis on privacy sensitivity
Immaturity of the application
Smart assistants also invoke ethical considerations. Examples include the reports and triage drafted by a chatbot: who is responsible in the event of misinformation or an incorrect estimation by the bot? In addition, conversations tend to be monitored and recorded. This also invokes privacy-related questions. On the other hand, acceptance of applications is growing and applications that can alleviate the increasingly pressured healthcare system are needed.
Smart assistants are gradually entering everyday healthcare practice. The technology is still under development and the possibilities are expanding. But in an industry burdened with such administrative pressure, it has a lot to offer already. The simplification, improvement and automation of tasks leaves the healthcare professional more time and attention for the patient while making processes more uniform and efficient. In addition, specialists have their hands free for what matters most: caring for patients.
- PWC, Prepare for the voice revolution, 2018
- The Medical Futurist, Top 12 health chatbots, 2020 [Available from: https://medicalfuturist.com/top-12-health-chatbots/]
- Rayna Hollander, VOICE ASSISTANTS IN HEALTHCARE: 3 emerging voice technology applications in healthcare that providers can deploy to cut costs, build loyalty, and drive revenue, 2019 [Available from: https://www.businessinsider.com/voice-assistants-technology-health-care-report?international=true&r=US&IR=T]
- Laure Lovett, AWS launches Amazon Transcribe Medical, 2019 [Available from: https://www.mobihealthnews.com/news/north-america/aws-launches-amazon-tran-scribe-medical]
- Ayuto.io. 2021. Opmars voice assistants in de zorg. [online] Available at: https://www.ayuto.io/posts/opmars-voice-assistants-in-de-zorg [Accessed 16 August 2021].
- Philips. 2021. Kunstmatige intelligentie kan een revolutie veroorzaken in innovatie in gezondheidszorg. [online] Available at: https://www.philips.nl/a-w/about/news/archive/standard/about/news/articles/2021/20210608-kunstmatige-intelligentie-kan-een-revolutie-veroorzaken-in-innovatie-in-gezondheidszorg.html [Accessed 16 August 2021].
- Max Savoni, Chatbots in Healthcare: Advantages and Disadvantages, 2019 [Available from: https://chatbots-life.com/chatbots-in-healthcare-advantages-and-disad-vantages-346448ed634c]
- Future, M., 2021. Voice Assistant Market Size USD 7.30 Billion by 2025, Registering a 24.32% CAGR – Report by Market Research Future [MRFR). [online] GlobeNewswire News Room. Available at: https://www.globenewswire.com/news-release/2021/06/23/2252069/0/en/Voice-Assistant-Market-Size-USD-7-30-Billion-by-2025-Registering-a-24-32-CAGR-Report-by-Market-Research-Future-MRFR.html [Accessed 16 August 2021].
- Global Market Insights, I., 2021. Health Intelligent Virtual Assistant Market 2021 | Emerging Trends & Global Industry Forecast to 2027: Global Market Insights Inc.. [online] GlobeNewswire News Room. Available at: https://www.globenewswire.com/en/news-release/2021/08/03/2273534/0/en/Health-Intelligent-Virtual-Assistant-Market-2021-Emerging-Trends-Global-Industry-Forecast-to-2027-Global-Market-Insights-Inc.html [Accessed 16 August 2021].
- Allied Market Research, Healthcare Chatbots Market by Application, Deployment, and End User: Global Opportunity Analysis and Industry Forecast, 2018–2026, 2019 [Available from: https://www.reportlinker.com/p05837025/Healthcare-Chatbots-Market-by-Applicati-on-Deployment-and-End-User-Global-Opportunity-Ana-lysis-and-Industry-Forecast-.html?utm_source=GNW]
- Bret Kinsella, More Than Half of Consumers Want to Use Voice Assistants for Healthcare – New Report from Voicebot and Orbita, 2019 [Available from: https://voicebot.ai/2019/10/29/more-than-half-of-consumers-want-to-use-voice-assistants-for-healthcare-new-report-from-voicebot-and-orbita/]