The Growth Channel

Meet Alexa: Your patient's digital health care assistant

by Anna Yakovenko, Emily Zuehlke Heuser, and Aashika Nagarajan

Some people use Alexa or Google Home to get quick answers about the weather, while others consult these voice-enabled smart speakers as their trusted confidant for getting answers to their health care questions. For planners, this means a new avenue for reaching patients.

With 55% of U.S. households expected to have smart speakers by 2022, voice assistants are becoming a critical mechanism for educating patients, communicating with them about where to access care, and providing ongoing care management.

Here are three ways your system can use voice assistant technology to attract and retain patients:

  1. Promote system brand in everyday health inquiries

    Some health systems have developed voice assistant skills (which you can think of as the audio version of a mobile app) to provide patients with information about common health care topics. For instance, KidsMD, an Alexa skill developed by Boston Children's Hospital, can answer questions about basic pediatric health conditions and provide guidance on when parents should seek more advanced care for their children. Similarly, Mayo Clinic delivers content from its news network on Alexa-enabled devices, including research on common health conditions and wellness advice from the health system's experts.

    By serving as accessible sources of health information, these organizations generate brand awareness and win patients' trust, improving their ability to attract patients to their facilities for future care.

  2. Embed the organization in patients' care search

    Organizations that have developed a geo-location skill can use voice assistants to advise patients on where to find the most convenient care within their health systems. As an example, Northwell Health developed an Alexa skill that identifies the system's nearest urgent care centers and EDs to the patient and calculates which of those locations have the shortest wait times. By owning the search process and making it easy for patients to locate facilities, the health system increases the chances of patients choosing Northwell over competing organizations. Northwell also found that patients are more content when they know how long they'll have to wait to see a provider—suggesting that in addition to attracting patients to your organization, Alexa skills may also improve patient experience.

  3. Keep the system top-of-mind through disease management

  4. Other programs leverage voice assistant technology in longer-term care management for high-risk patients. Libertana Home Health, for example, programmed an Alexa skill to assist and monitor its elderly and disabled populations. Through this technology, patients can use verbal commands to report medical data (such as weight, blood pressure, or blood sugar levels), receive medication and exercise reminders, and call their care teams. The home health organization found that voice-activated tools can improve patient satisfaction—and thereby boost provider loyalty—by creating a more natural care experience and reducing disruptions to the patient's lifestyle.


June 13 webcon: How to create a consumer-focused digital strategy

Learn the consumer-focused digital tactics that providers are using to attract and retain patients.

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Millennials, Gen X, Baby Boomers, the Silent Generation—you know they all consume care differently, but what exactly do each of these groups want? And how can you become their provider of choice?

We surveyed thousands of consumers across the United States to find out. Download this infographic to learn more, including how to tailor your messages and target your investments to each generation.

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