Speech Readies Healthcare for ACA Requirements

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In 2013, the healthcare sector was frantically trying to meet government deadlines, stimulating a number of marriages between providers, insurance companies, and speech technology solution vendors. A year later, speech technology sales are as strong, if not stronger, due in large part to additional changes in government healthcare policies. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly referred to as "Obamacare," went into effect on January 1, 2014, and its myriad rules continue to confound consumers, while healthcare providers are laser-focused on the quality of patient care and the medical documentation process.

While the use of speech in healthcare has always been a "home run" for the speech industry, Nancy Dobrozdravic, vice president of marketing and sales at Aspect Software, says that the ACA is driving new legislation requiring a demonstrable improvement in the overall patient experience. "This new act requires healthcare providers to measure patient experience to an unprecedented extent," she says.

Despite the healthcare sector's conservative reputation, the consequences of ignoring these issues have prompted purse strings to loosen. Implementing speech solutions not only facilitates adherence to government regulations, but it can also save time and money, and provide better patient care. The ever-evolving technology, coupled with more quantifiable results, means that implementing speech solutions has become a strategic advantage for both providers and insurers.

Can Speech Make Insurance Companies Well Again?

On the insurance side of the industry, organizations have been under increased pressure from policyholders who want to know how the ACA affects their coverage. Routine concerns, such as "Can I keep my current doctor?" or "XYZ Insurance has better rates than you do. What can you offer me that they don't?" are now much more complicated and have very different answers than a year ago. In turn, this has meant significant increases in call volume and a greater necessity for knowledge, as overtaxed contact center agents try to keep pace.

"Consumers are confused," says D. Daniel Ziv, vice president of voice of the customer analytics at Verint. "The field has also gotten a lot more competitive—healthcare companies are investing in creating member experiences and becoming more efficient."

Recent findings from Forrester Research on customer experience indicate that healthcare is one of the top verticals, Ziv says. "[Forrester] estimates that leaders in the field can generate about a half billion dollars more a year just by providing a better member experience. [Insurance companies have] a lot to gain by providing better member experiences. People have a choice now."

Virtual Assistants Are on Fire

In 2013, Nuance Communications surveyed 10,000 physicians and found that 80 percent thought that in the next five years 

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