‘Voice assistant technologies add another dimension to home health care that other connected health technologies can’t provide’
BOSTON – Nathan Treloar, president of voice-powered health care solutions provider Orbita, sees the potential impact of the power of voice-assisted technolgy and embraces it, along with artificial intelligence and virtual reality, as the future of home health care.
HHTN: What are some of the most innovative ways that voice assistants and artificial intelligence are being incorporated into home health care?
TRELOAR: One example is our project with the Commonwealth Care Alliance, in which voice assistant technology will be used to improve home care coordination for low-income patients with chronic care needs. We’re also working with several partners in the pharmaceutical industry to optimize clinical trials through the use of voice assistant technology to improve adherence and capture patient wellness data through daily assessment surveys delivered through the voice assistant. Additionally, there is considerable interest in voice assistants that engage more proactively with patients in home care settings and beyond to provide things like medication reminders.
HHTN: Will technologies like these replace the human touch in the future?
TRELOAR: I think the role of voice assistants is to supply something approximating a human touch when an actual human is unavailable or otherwise unable to meet the patient’s needs. Having said that, there are situations where a voice assistant can be preferable to a human. For example, it is common for Alzheimer’s patients with short-term memory loss to ask the same question repeatedly and a virtual voice assistant never tires of repeated questions. This is one of the unexpected applications of voice assistants that we’re just now discovering.
HHTN: How is technology impacting the way home health care is delivered today?
TRELOAR: Voice assistant technologies add another dimension to home health care that other connected health technologies can’t provide. Technologies like the Amazon Echo can provide a way for patients to access medical information or message their caregivers, but they can also play a favorite song, deliver a weather update or tell a joke. This touches directly on patient engagement—one of the biggest challenges in health care. Patients who are not engaged in their own wellness are unlikely to adhere to treatment, get well or stay well.
HHTN: What are some of the obstacles to a wider embrace of technology in home health care?
TRELOAR: The health care industry is notoriously slow at adopting new technologies because of questions like who pays for these new technologies in an economic environment where the stakeholders still have conflicting motivations. At the same time, practical realities like limited network connectivity in some patients’ homes is still a challenge, particularly in more rural locations. Finally, voice is new enough that the use cases and patterns of deployment are still being work out. These variables have resulted in many pilot programs, but not yet any significant larger scale deployments in home health care.
HHTN: What will home health care look like in the next five years?
TRELOAR: It’s clear that emerging digital technologies like smart, connected devices, virtual assistants, virtual reality, augmented reality and even more futuristic technologies like brain-to-computer interfaces will play a larger role in home health care. The rate of adoption is the bigger question, but we need only look at the success of voice assistant devices over the last few years to get a sense of how quickly things can change. While home health care is anything but a high-velocity industry when it comes to innovation, we will see these technologies having a big impact on home care much sooner than most expect.