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Voice Technology and AI: Powering Patient Experience & Expectations


The recent Pharma Customer Experience Summit explored the changing ways that patients are searching for medical information. Moe Alsumidaie highlights the takeaways.

Understanding changes in patient experiences is an important facet towards enhancing patient engagement and centricity. It’s clear that new digital devices and AI are changing the way that patients search for medical information on the internet, based on discussions at the recent PanAgora’s Pharma Customer Experience Summit in New Jersey. 

Voice is the new digital experience. With the rise of novel Voice User Interface (VUI) household products, such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home and VUI integration in smart devices, Murray Izenwasser, VP of Digital Transformation and CMO of AAJ Technologies, discussed the big opportunity such devices offer to better connect patients with the biopharmaceutical industry. Izenwasser demonstrated that VUI device adoption has seen a faster market penetration rate compared to smart phones, TV, radio, and the Internet. Izenwasser explained that VUI and integrated health applications are the next phase in the patient experience and will likely yield fruitful outcomes for pharma, rather than simple hype. To elaborate, 78% of users utilize voice on phone, 48% dictate on phone or tablet, 31% use digital voice devices, and 29% use voice in EHR.  In EU, physicians leverage digital assistants, as 67% use Apple Siri, 50% use Google assistant, and 27% use Amazon Alexa. The opportunities for pharma include enhanced patient engagement, better reach to healthcare professionals, helping caregivers, and training sales representatives. There are some issues, however, with VUI, which include lack of HIPAA compliance, accents and colloquialisms, and mispronounced drug names.

Coleman Bigelow, Healthcare Industry Partner Lead at Google, explained that many consumers are turning to digital assistants that can connect relevant information based on behavioral requests. For example, if you are preparing to go to the airport, and you want to check the weather at your destination, Google’s AI-powered digital assistant can gather information about your flight including how long it takes to get to the airport, and at which gate your flight will depart from. Bigelow indicated that patients are expecting convenience out of digital, as Google is seeing a significant uptick in health-related ‘Near Me’ searches (i.e., pharmacies near me, hospitals near me, doctors near me, etc.), and patients are now expecting to buy things in one click, as Google experienced a doubling of ‘Medicine Delivery’ searches in the last 18 months. Bigelow, then, discussed how novel digital devices and AI are going to transform disease management and diagnostics.  To elaborate, Google generated an AI-based ocular diagnostic for diabetic retinopathy; in collaboration with physicians and health organizations, this algorithm performed on par with US board-certified ophthalmologists.  Additionally, DexCom, in partnership with Verily, is releasing a new wearable device that uses G6 sensor technology for diabetics, bringing convenience to diabetes management.

Access, convenience and proximity are key facets towards enhancing patient experiences, indicated Susannah L. Rose, Scientific Director of Research, Office of Patient Experience at the Cleveland Clinic. Based on surveys conducted by Cleveland Clinic, patients want to be able to walk in and get near-immediate access to care (i.e., be seen within 30 minutes), they wanted access 24/7, and locations that are close in proximity. Accordingly, Cleveland Clinic adjusted its operations to deliver services that enhance patient experiences, such as online virtual visits, access to walk-ins, and call-ins. Delivering virtual health appears to be well-received by patients, as 82% of surveyed patients agreed/strongly agreed that virtual encounters were as good as in-person visits, 53% indicated their virtual visit was better than an in person visit, and 93% agreed/strongly agreed that their provider was interested in them as a person. Rose raised the concern that physicians and caregivers are facing burnout, however, Rose believes that enhancing the relationship between caregivers and their patients through better communication reduces burnout.

VUI, AI and digital health technologies are changing patient behavior and expectations; patients want access to medicines, health information and health services close-by, at their fingertips, and they want it now. Biopharmaceutical enterprises, technology companies, and healthcare organizations recognize patients’ rapidly changing needs, and are working hard at delivering devices, technologies and services to address those needs. Although these industries are at the inception of creating solutions, many opportunities lay ahead of this wave before reaching its pinnacle.

Click here for details of the upcoming PanAgora Clinical Trials Patient Experience Summit (September 1213, 2018, South San Francisco).


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