Virtual Voice Assistants Deliver in Ways That Websites Can’t

October 18, 2019

// By Marcia Simon, APR //

Marcia SimonBoston Children’s Hospital and Atrium Health are among the pioneers of Alexa “skills,” similar to apps on a mobile device. Alexa’s HIPAA compliance has been a game changer, making it easier for users to quickly gain access to information they need.

“Alexa, what is rotator cuff tendinitis?”

“Alexa, where’s the nearest urgent care center?”

“Alexa, what’s my glucose level?”

Amazon’s voice assistant can now answer all these questions through the new HIPAA-compliant Alexa Skills Kit for developers.

Charles Gaddy, director of mHealth at Atrium Health

Charles Gaddy, director of mHealth at Atrium Health

The new kit enables developers at medical organizations to build Alexa skills capable of transferring and receiving protected health information on an invitation-only basis. This opens the door for patients and caregivers to not just learn about their health concerns but manage them as well through virtual voice devices and smart speakers at home.

“Right now, voice is where it’s at,” says Charles Gaddy, director of mHealth at Atrium Health, with more than 40 hospitals and 900 care locations throughout North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. “AI (artificial intelligence) tools on a website help with general information, but not with personal information,” he adds. While website chatbots are server-oriented, virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa are user-oriented, making it easier for users to quickly gain access to information they need.

William Gagnon, senior director of digital engagement at Boston Children’s Hospital

William Gagnon, senior director of digital engagement at Boston Children’s Hospital

“Website traffic dynamics have changed. Previously, 84 percent of website traffic was organically driven by people searching conditions and treatments. They would click to find a phone number or request an appointment. They searched content and watched videos to learn about diseases and treatments,” says William Gagnon, senior director of digital engagement at Boston Children’s Hospital, adding, “When a patient is newly diagnosed, that person’s caregiver is more likely to go to the website for relevant content, but patients in the middle of treatment for a disease or illness tend to want more than the website can offer. Now, third-party reputation websites, Google, and AI-based searches account for 20 percent of all search volume.”


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