Voice user interface technology continues to transform some of the core activities of healthcare, such as the keeping of patient records and caregiver communication. At the same time, we’re seeing VUI integrate with a growing number of connected devices. The combination of VUI and the Internet of Things (IoT) can be powerful, delivering results where they matter most: in systems that allow caregivers and patients to approach care more efficiently.

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The key to all these solutions is increased mobility. In healthcare, that’s a significant benefit, allowing caregivers to spend less time tethered to workstations and more time interacting with patients.

Here are three ways in which VUI and IoT can make a difference together.

1. VUI Facilitates Patient Service, Inside and Outside the Hospital

In patient rooms, smart assistants let patients verbally send requests that otherwise would necessitate pressing a call button and waiting for a nurse or certified nursing assistant to respond. Some hospitals are equipping patient rooms with an encrypted version of Amazon Aiva that lets patients ask for water, for example, and routes their requests to the certified nursing assistant assigned to that room — a solution that’s more efficient for both patient and caregiver.

Providers are also elevating patients’ at-home experiences, using VUI solutions in smart assistants and in chatbots developed for desktops and mobile devices. Colorado system UCHealth has built an entire offering, including health records integration, around a natural language processing-based system called Livi. For now, some of Livi’s functionality is limited to typed commands, but patients can use VUI to ask questions about UCHealth and healthy lifestyles via an Amazon Alexa skill.

2. Wearables and Smart Assistants Expand Hands-Free Support

Wearable devices with VUI functionality are taking mobility to the next level, and they’re ideal for staff members who spend their shifts on the go. Wearable smart badges provide a platform for hands-free communication. The badges support a variety of communication channels, including voice commands. One simple yet effective use for wearables is to make it easier for physicians to reach nurses on the floor, without requiring either to engage in an extended game of telephone tag.

During procedures, smart assistants can serve as an extra set of hands, handling a variety of support tasks for physicians and nurses. For example, a caregiver might request a blood sample or call for a photo without having to leave the patient or require additional staff.

3. Advanced Natural Language Processing Supports Voice Dictation

Solutions such as Nuance’s Dragon Medical One let clinicians dictate patient notes into a platform on a smartphone or a workstation. For clinicians who have relied on hunt-and-peck typing, voice dictation is faster and more natural, so it often leads to more detailed, thorough notes.

Direct entry to the platform also means records are available to colleagues more quickly. The net result is that physicians can spend more time with patients — a workflow improvement that can help to reduce physician burnout while enhancing care.

Over the next several years, we’ll see VUI applications extend to more and more areas of healthcare, often piggybacking on smart devices. While the IoT gives users the flexibility afforded by mobile connectivity, VUI supports fast, efficient workflows, whether for day-to-day tasks or collaborating with colleagues. Together, that’s an unbeatable combination.