Healthcare News & Insights

Voice-recognition tech could soon be norm in hospitals

Voice recognition technology has become a normal part of many people’s lives. Programs such as Apple’s Siri help users find restaurants, get directions and call contacts without having to use their phone’s keypad. Hospitals may find themselves using similar tech in the not-so-distant future. 

GettyImages-453836953One hospital has already started experimenting with the idea of a voice-activated personal assistant helping clinicians with various tasks related to patient care.

According to an article in Stat News, Boston Children’s Hospital has piloted its own voice software initiatives.

Boston Children’s created several voice-activated apps based on Amazon’s Alexa technology. Similar to Siri (or Microsoft’s Cortana), Alexa is the voice-activated virtual assistant software that powers Amazon’s devices – and it uses open source technology, meaning IT pros can use it to develop their own customized programs.

The first app Boston Children’s created was Kids MD, an app where parents with access to Amazon devices could verbally ask questions about common ailments in children. The app would offer users information about the best treatments and medicines for these conditions.

Expanded application to treatment areas

Expanding on that app’s success, the facility decided to try and apply the same technology to areas directly related to patients’ treatment while they’re in the hospital.

Per the article, staff created several programs that could be used in the operating room, the intensive care unit and a young patient’s room.

Doctors used voice-recognition technology in the operating room to automatically take and label pictures of various parts of a patient’s intestinal tract during a colonoscopy. Voice-activated apps helped nurses draw and properly categorize blood samples in the ICU.

In a patient’s room, the Kids MD app could help better communicate discharge instructions to young patients’ families, everything from how much acetaminophen is needed for a fever to how to flush a catheter if a patient still has one post-discharge.

Staff also brainstormed other possible uses for voice-activated virtual-assistant technology powered by Alexa, including allowing patients to dim the lights or change the temperature in their rooms.

This tech could also be used to record patients’ stories about how they became ill – reducing the times they have to repeat themselves to multiple doctors and nurses. The software could even act as an electronic DJ to choose music as background noise during surgery.

Future for voice tech

Because technology like Alexa is open source and available to anyone who wants to use it, and it has many applications for a hospital setting, voice-activated software could become more common. This is especially true since the feds are pushing hospitals to implement more user-friendly (and patient-friendly) technology.

With that in mind, you may want to check if your hospital’s network has the infrastructure in place to support such a change, including strong and secure wireless Internet access throughout the facility, as well as the capability to protect the data recorded and stored in a voice app.

Now’s the time to plan and budget for any required updates so your network’s able to adapt to these and other similar technological developments.

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