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13th December 2019

Voice-enabled apps are beginning to make an impact in life sciences, and that impact will only increase.

Effective patient communication is at the heart of drug development. Seeking the right form of words to engage and reassure vulnerable people is a priority for any company moving forward with a clinical trial. We need to find our voice. But what if that voice is automated?

Voice-enabled apps are beginning to make an impact in life sciences, and that impact will only increase. While not every situation will be ideal for a mobile alert – imagine the embarrassment of being loudly reminded to take a drug or follow a medical procedure when in a public place – the potential for good is undeniable. An app that can guide us through a process to self-administer treatments could deliver a huge boost to patient quality of life. We need to balance risk and reward, of course, but a scenario offering patients with chronic diseases automated tracking of symptoms, prescriptions, diet and exercise doesn’t look too far away. Voice-enabled apps could be used to deliver basic medical instructions and also more advanced tutorials.

2019 has seen Amazon take notable steps forward in automating healthcare communication. This month saw the unveiling of its partnership with Giant Eagle Pharmacy. Giant Eagle now offers patients the option of setting medication reminders and requesting prescription drug refills via Alexa. Patients with an Amazon Echo device simply need to say “Alexa, manage my medication” or “Alexa, refill my prescriptions” and the task will be completed.

Alexa currently dominates the smart speaker market, with 70% of market share in the USA and UK and well over 100 million devices sold. Google will surely keep pushing for a larger slice of the pie, but whichever of those two giants ends up with greater influence we can expect voice-enabled apps to be a major factor in patient communication in the years ahead. We may not be able to put a face to the voice but if it tells us what we need to know, that’s a very big step in the right direction.


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