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“Alexa, play two o’clock nightmares.”

Out of context, this seems a bit off. But when you learn that “two o’clock nightmares” is the name of a soothing playlist assembled by a man paralyzed by a spinal injury and plagued by chronic anxiety that is often at its worst in the middle of the night, you realize immediately the transformative power of voice technology in improving patients’ lives. Without the ability to use fine motor skills to access clickable, tapable screen-based tools, voice can be all you have to control your environment, both physical and digital. This poignant anecdote, shared by John Loughnane, Commonwealth Care Alliance’s chief innovation officer, at the first Voice of Healthcare Summit demonstrates the immediacy of voice as a power to drive dramatic improvements in care today.

Many experts at the summit projected 2019 to be the break-out year of voice in healthcare (a relatively bullish prediction for a classically slow-moving industry). And while HIPAA compliance may still be many months away for the smart assistants that increasingly embed themselves into our lives, voice’s impact on healthcare is not waiting. It’s here and poised to become all the more impactful as the industry and the regulations surrounding it inch closer to where technology is today.

While HIPAA compliance may still be many months away for the smart assistants that increasingly embed themselves into our lives, voice’s impact on healthcare is not waiting.

The perspectives of physicians, insurers, hospitals and voice platform innovators converged at the summit on a host of exciting opportunities for how voice might advance the “quadruple aim” of healthcare: a better patient experience, a better physician experience, reduced costs and better outcomes. For brands looking to better understand the evolving intersection of voice technology and healthcare, these are some of the most urgent and inspiring developments to keep on your radar.

Voice is a boon to the movement toward aging in place

The United Kingdom’s appointment of a Minister for Loneliness raised some eyebrows and late-night snark when it was announced earlier this year, but the burden of loneliness is no joke for both individual patients and the healthcare system. Social isolation has been shown to have an equivalent effect on health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. It’s estimated to cost Medicare $6.7 billion per year. So as millions of older adults cross the threshold of retirement and increasingly seek to live out their years on their terms in their homes, there’s a real need for fostering connection.

Enter voice technology. The creators of LifePod, the only proactive capability currently configured to be HIPAA-compliant on the market today, have built custom extensions that allow caregivers and patients to receive personalized alerts and reporting. An interface as seamless as voice, enabling communication with caregivers while they’re away, will substantially reduce the isolation many older adults feel and the more acute risks inherent in aging-in-place. Brands that actively find ways to tap into and add value in this emerging care dynamic will stand to benefit themselves and patients tremendously.

Voice will save precious clinician time

While we often think about voice’s potential in healthcare in the scheme of powerful patient use cases like the one above, a chorus of voices championed the notion that voice tech may be the healthcare provider’s best friend. Companies like Nuance and Robin Healthcare are ushering in a new paradigm for medical note-taking, bringing voice into the doctor’s office to help alleviate one of the bigger pain points providers face: the time-intensive process of properly documenting their days. On average, humans can type 40 words-per-minute but can speak 150. The ability for medical professionals to dictate their notes three times faster via voice will yield tremendous system-wide benefits, getting providers to their next patient that much faster.

Eric Turkington is the vp of strategic partnerships at RAIN.