Impact Of Conversational UI In Healthcare 2021

Let’s start by saying, conversational user-interface (UI) platforms are not a fad.

Tech giants like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM are investing millions of dollars into improving their algorithms while the adoption of conversational UI grows yearly. The adoption of voice assistants has outpaced mobile adoption, and there are currently over 125 million active voice assistant users. This number is projected to grow to over 140 million by 2024.

Types Of Conversational UI Experiences


When we discuss conversational UI experiences, we are not only speaking of “Voice”, but also chatbots and textbots. Conversational experiences consist of:

  • Voice Apps - Spoken word experience that utilizes speech-to-text (STT) and  text-to-speech (TTS) (eg., Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, smart speaker,  mobile phone, car)
  • Chatbot- Text-driven conversational experience that may live within a website  or mobile app. Chatbot experiences can combine spoken and typed words
  • Textbot -Text-driven conversational experience through SMS on a mobile device

Each channel brings its own unique experience and can give brands a broader reach to interact with customers. Tools like Google Dialogflow, which allows for a singular development, leverage conversational design across multiple conversational channels.


Natural Step in Human Computer Interaction 


Advancements in natural language understanding (NLU) and natural language processing (NLP) make it possible to have human-like conversations with a great deal of devices. In 2018, Google announced it achieved a 95% accuracy rating, effectively matching the recognition abilities of an actual human being. Plus, by leveraging speech synthesis markup language (SSML), you have additional control over the speech output of a voice experience to create “emotion.” For example, adding a long pause between words, adding “speechcons,” or having Alexa whisper.

Conversational UI is:

  • Intuitive—a natural method of communication
  • Efficient—a frictionless and rapid method of communication
  • Convenient—conversational devices (eg, mobile phones, smart speakers) are prolific  and offer a flexible communication method


It's About the Conversation, Not the Technology


The conversational design is what makes a great experience. It is vital to have a wellthought-out conversational experience that sets a tone for a brand and helps the customer. A great example of this is the Capital One Alexa skill.

Using Conversational UI to Diagnose


In the past few years, tech companies have put forth considerable efforts into Machine Learning (ML) algorithms, which can identify human conditions sooner by using Voice. For instance: Utah-based start-up Canary Speech has developed models for diagnosing multiple disease states such as cognitive health, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. Further, Vocalis Health, a Boston start-up, is developing a pipeline of vocal biomarkers  to do voice analysis on many health disorders.

The Rise of Voice Search To Over 1B a Month


Voice apps like Google Actions, Alexa Skills, and chatbots offer end users personalized, utilitarian app-like experiences. However, what if a customer asks their smart speaker a general question about a particular brand? Such as, “Ok Google, how do I take Prescription X?” This is where voice search engine optimization or voice SEO comes to the rescue. As searches become less “keyword” based and become more speech-based, it is essential to structure content on websites to accommodate more and longer natural-language search queries.

Google announced in 2019 that it would support the new “How-To & FAQ” structured data markup within Google Search and Google Assistant. “By using FAQ Page structured data, you can make your content eligible to display these questions and answers directly on Google Search and the Assistant, helping users find answers to frequently asked questions quickly.”

Voice search statistics reveal that every month there are one billion searches made by voice.


Security and Privacy


One particular question frequently asked about Voice is “Are smart speakers always listening?” The answer is “Well, technically, yes.” However, utterances (the questions you ask a voice assistant) are only sent for analysis after a user says a wake word (eg, “Alexa,”  “Ok Google”). We should also consider that we all carry around a device with a microphone, speaker, and camera, and that knows our location data: our mobile phone. There are risks from a privacy standpoint when using Voice, however, these are mitigated with a smart speaker.

Are Conversational Platforms HIPAA Compliant?


Amazon Alexa: In early 2019, Amazon announced that the Alexa platform would adhere to HIPAA rules launching six HIPAA-compliant skills. Here are just a few tasks Alexa can help patients with: 

  • Checking status of prescriptions
  • Booking an emergency same-day visit
  • Finding emergency care


Amazon is leading the charge to ensure the Alexa platform complies with HIPAA security and privacy standards. More recently, Amazon announced Voice for Healthcare and has opened the submission process beyond the original six HIPAA-compliant Alexa Skills. Companies (or developers) can now apply using the HIPAA-Eligible Skill Program to have their HIPAA-compliant skills reviewed by Amazon.

Google Assistant: Neither Google Home nor Google Assistant is HIPAA-compliant.

Orbita: is a healthcare-specific conversational UI platform that allows companies to build conversational experiences across all channels. However, Orbita was developed with security and privacy in mind and adheres to HIPAA guidelines.

Ultimately, if you are developing a conversational experience for customers that allows them to reference approved content rapidly (eg, FAQs), all platforms above, including an optimized voice SEO plan, will meet their needs. Conversely, in the instance a company needs to collect, store, and share patient data (eg, symptom tracker), you will either need  to apply to Amazon Alexa’s HIPAA-eligible program or use Orbita’s secure conversational UI platform.

Immediate Use Cases for Brands


Due to COVID-19, pharmaceutical companies are investing in digital tools and have taken more interest in conversational UI experiences - both Voice and chat. Here are some immediate wins that would help patients, caregivers, and HCPs and drive brand loyalty.

1. Give patients and caregivers tools to find information quickly - Optimize voice SEO, add a chatbot to the patient website, and claim the voice space on Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa.

2. Provide a natural interface for patients to track symptoms and set reminders - Keep patients up-to-date and adherent by developing a HIPAA compliant, frictionless experience using Amazon Alexa.

3. Sales teams have limited in-office “facetime” with healthcare professionals or office staff - Develop a robust conversational voice or chatbot experience that will continue the “conversation” with on-demand answers and move HCPs through the prescribing journey.

4. Training - Use conversational platforms to engage and “gamify” training in a new engaging way.

5. Build digital experiences to keep relationships with patients and HCPs - Develop a voice experience and use SSML to give the brand a “voice” and a personality to build an emotional bond with customers.

Please contact your account leads or if you have any questions or would like to discuss any of the above.