“Alexa, please refill my prescription for lisinopril and have it mailed to my office.”

Commands like those may soon become a common occurrence, which would be a stark difference from how things have been done. For the last few decades, interacting with another human or a computer to perform a simple transaction like refilling a prescription meant that you may have:

  • Called the pharmacy and fidgeted with a clunky Interactive Voice Response (IVR) menu.
  • Made a bunch of clicks on a computer and keyed in your payment, address, and other information.
  • Just called or visited the pharmacy.

Then, within the last eight years, smartphone use dramatically increased and mobile apps helped improve the accuracy and efficiency of human-machine interaction. But now, voice technology is transforming the way humans interact with devices, services, products, and each other.

The rapidly growing availability of smart speakers, such as Amazon’s Echo, and increasingly sophisticated voice technologies are liberating people from their computers and mobile devices.

Voice Technology Brings New Opportunities

Forward-thinking companies are leveraging voice technology to enhance existing interactions with their customers and to develop entirely new methods of customer interaction and service offerings. The graphical user interfaces (GUI) and manual methods of information capture and display used to communicate with customers and other business partners for so long are rapidly being replaced by voice user interfaces (VUI). In short, VUI is becoming the new GUI.

Considerations for Employing Voice Technologies in Pharma

As with all new technologies, historical considerations and some challenges remain—and a few new considerations arise. Some of these are unique to the pharmaceutical and healthcare industry and some apply generally to all industries:

  • Complex Medical Conditions and Drug Names: Multi-syllabic, complex diagnoses, procedures, and drug names can present issues related to pronunciation and interpretation.
  • Accents: Stressing one syllable over adjacent syllables and other variations in speech can be misinterpreted or create misunderstandings upon capture or output.
  • Slang/Colloquialisms/Technical Jargon: Similar to the medical conditions, drug name, and accent considerations, voice assistive technologies are not immune to misunderstanding medical slang and technical jargon.
  • HIPAA Regulations: Information conveyed via voice is not immune to security and privacy considerations and HIPAA regulations.

The Future of Voice-Assistive Technology is Loud and Clear

The good news is that all of the above can be addressed via proper construction, configuration, deployment, and training of voice assistant applications. And as advances in software and hardware are achieved, it’s certain that these challenges will be addressed without any explicit consideration by the companies providing these solutions. Voice technologies will truly bring a new era of liberation for today’s consumer—and help establish an intimacy, the likes of which we can only imagine at this time.

  • Murray Izenwasser

    Murray Izenwasser is CMO, VP Strategy & Digital Solutions at AAJ Technologies. Murray recently presented on Voice User Interfaces, including proof of concept cases specific to the pharmaceutical industry, at the ePharma Conference in New York. If you would like to review his presentation video, please contact him. 

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