Consumers Interested In Using Voice Assistants for Healthcare, But Privacy Worries Remain

It’s becoming more common for consumers to use voice assistants for healthcare, but others are holding back due to privacy worries, according to the results of a new survey. The survey, which connected with 1,004 U.S. adults, was backed by AI vendor Orbita and conducted by Voicebot.ai. It focused on consumer adoption of voice assistants for healthcare functions.

One of the key results from the survey was that 7.5% of consumers had used voice assistants such as Alexa or Google Assistant as of September 2019. Also, nearly 52% reported that they wanted to use voice assistants when obtaining care in the future.

At present, the report notes, more consumers have tried out voice assistants via smartphone than in any other context, with 87.3 million being monthly active users. The top voice assistant used on smartphones was Apple Siri, cited by 46.2%, followed by Google Assistant (27.7%), Amazon Alexa (16.6%), Samsung Bixby (6.9%) and Microsoft Cortana (3.9%).

However, the use of voice assistants via smart speaker is expanding rapidly, rising 15.2% in the first nine months of 2019 alone. What’s more, smart speaker users are quite engaged, with 80.4% ranked as monthly users and almost 50% as daily active users, the report noted.

When consumers do use voice assistants for healthcare purposes, their top activity was asking about symptoms of illness (72.9%). Others included questions about medications (45.9%), finding a hospital, clinic or urgent care center (37.7%) and researching treatment options (37.7%).

Among these consumers, people aged 18 to 29 were roughly 50% more likely to have used a voice assistant for healthcare services access than those over 60, but respondents of all ages express a significant level of interest, researchers found. The group expressing the highest overall level of interest was consumers aged 45 to 60.

The survey also found that current healthcare-based voice assistant users were more likely to have integrated these technologies into other parts of their lives, such as using wireless earbuds or owning smart speakers.

As with other consumer-facing healthcare technology, consumers continue to have concerns about the privacy and security of their healthcare interactions. Voicebot.ai researchers note that while Amazon has deployed a HIPAA-certified solution for some Alexa skills, but otherwise, providers need to offer their own assistants if they want their patient interactions to be HIPAA-compliant.

They also point out that over the past several months, a number of stories have been published in which big tech companies like Amazon, Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft have shared recordings of interactions between consumers and voice assistants. During the same period, about 3.6% of U.S. adults reported being “very concerned” about voice assistants and privacy.

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

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