Amid the Pandemic, Speech Technologies Expand the Telehealth Options

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Telehealth has rapidly grown over the past decade for both cost-management and convenience reasons, but the recent pandemic has injected a more critical motivation for providers and patients alike.

Prior to 2020, many healthcare businesses separated telehealth from their traditional care lines. But with the ongoing importance of physical distancing, providers are now using telehealth in their everyday practices.

In fact, the telehealth approach is now providing treatments across the entire healthcare spectrum. One example is VoiceSense’s predictive speech analytics solutions, which can assist behavioral health professionals with monitoring depression and other mental health issues. VoiceSense is language-independent, tracking speech patterns over time and detecting when the patterns change, thereby alerting a mental health provider when the technology deems the patient’s mental state is changing. For many patients, the alerts provide immediate and early feedback that can assist with behavioral self-care, thereby empowering patients to improve their health.

Much like biometric trackers, Voice­Sense’s remote monitoring gives healthcare providers insights into patients’ well-being through real-time analysis of voice patterns. These mental biomarkers act just like heart rate and blood pressure monitors to deliver early alerts that assist providers with intervention and more efficient in-person and telehealth visits.

Expanding telehealth with at-risk populations is critical to reopening the economy while protecting the elderly and people with preexisting conditions. LifePod offers a solution that enables both healthcare providers and families to remotely monitor and support their patients and loved ones.

LifePod allows health providers to create routines for patients, such as exercise and medication reminders, including refills. Patients respond to LifePod’s questions and reminders to verify that they are maintaining their healthcare regimen. Personal routines can include family members checking whether the patient requires groceries to be delivered, thereby eliminating the need for a trip to the grocery store.

LifePod’s speech interface resembles that of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google Assistant, so it is user-friendly and easy to learn even for technology-challenged people. Furthermore, it integrates with smart home devices so patients do not have to learn to use another personal assistant to turn on and off lights, change the thermostat, or lock doors. LifePod’s combination of healthcare help and family inclusion in the daily lives of patients can prevent having to move independent but at-risk people to higher-risk care facilities while reducing personal trips to stores, pharmacies, and the like.

Finally, even “good old-fashioned” telehealth is quickly morphing due to the use of natural language processing for a greater number of patients across a broader treatment continuum. Many healthcare organizations discovered the value of applying speech analytics to a much larger patient base due to the explosive growth of telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, many if not most healthcare organizations used telehealth for specific cases such as ICU reviews by specialists, or distance care for small patient populations. So speech analytics stayed on the periphery. Now that many traditional office visits moved to telehealth, patient and provider conversations are recorded, and the power of speech analytics is being tested in care areas not previously considered for speech analytics.

COVID-19 quickly and by necessity changed the delivery of healthcare, and speech technologies are supporting these changes that are likely permanent. Healthcare will continue to drive new and important uses of speech technologies in the near future. 

Kevin Brown is customer experience application architect at Banner Health, where he specializes in voice and web customer experience solutions. He has more than 25 years of experience designing and delivering speech-enabled solutions. You can reach him at kevin.brown@voxperitus.com.

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