Patient Experience

Voice assistants in healthcare: Why & how to use them

SONIFI Health By SONIFI Health
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January 20, 2022

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“Alexa, let’s improve patient experience.”

Millions of people have smart speakers at home, using voice commands for both practical tasks and fun skills. And now healthcare organizations are harnessing the power of voice assistants to improve clinical workflows, patient engagement, care interactions and discharge planning.

Why voice assistants are being added to patient rooms

Because of how familiar individuals are with using voice commands at home, voice assistants in the patient room are one of the easiest technologies for patients and clinicians to adopt.

With voice, clinicians have a hands-free option to streamline some in-room tasks, and patients have a convenient way to access what’s important to them.

The option to use voice commands also helps patients who have mobility or dexterity issues and cannot fully use a traditional pillow speaker, or who are visually impaired and cannot easily view screens or printed information.

Hospitals and other healthcare locations can create custom skills that integrate with their interactive TV, EHR, or other systems to achieve specific organizational or patient experience goals.

Patient privacy & PHI security with voice assistants

Software developers for healthcare voice technology take extra precautions to configure voice assistants that are appropriate and safe for patient and clinicians to use without worrying about security and privacy.

“While at-home voice assistants are set up with individual user accounts, healthcare voice assistants are set up with a central console that allows for enterprise management of the devices — similar to mobile device management (MDM) systems,” says Stan Holt, Head of Marketing & Operations for Aiva Health, one of SONIFI Health’s voice partners.

Companies like Aiva that help create software for healthcare ensure the voice assistants are set up with additional security and privacy protection for patients.

“The software implements specific administrative, technical and physical safeguards for protected health information processed by HIPAA-eligible skills,” Holt says.

Controlling voice skills, settings & integrations

The centralized console for healthcare voice assistants also allows administrators to pick and choose which settings and skills are enabled on the devices.

“For example,” Holt says, “shopping commands are disabled by default, and you can enable special accessibility settings and custom skills specifically built for use in an acute care setting that integrate with other systems in use, such as interactive TV platforms, nurse call or rounding systems, smart room technologies and more.”

6 reasons to use voice assistants in patient rooms

Use cases for voice assistants in healthcare settings are growing alongside consumer behaviors and technology integrations. Here are some ways voice can be part of your staff and patient engagement strategies.

1. Clinical workflow improvements

Saving nurses time and cutting out non-clinical tasks may help them feel less burned out and more focused on bedside interactions.

For example, integrations with an interactive TV in the room can let nurses pull up education videos or a discharge checklist with a simple voice command, giving them more time to answer patient questions.

A smart speaker can help staff settle newly admitted patients more efficiently. By calling up a patient orientation video or walkthrough and automatically playing it for patients on the interactive TV, nurses are free to tend to other new patient tasks.

Clinicians can also use voice commands that route requests for assistance directly to the applicable party, eliminating the need to leave the room to find someone to help.

2. Patient care engagement

Inpatient facilities can schedule voice assistants to share prompts and reminders with patients during their stay.

With EHR integrations, smart speakers can let patients know who is on their care team, and what their scheduled appointments are for the day.

Nurses can proactively engage patients with important safety information available on the in-room TV by using voice to start a falls prevention video, for example, or to show details about their post-surgery care needs. They can also encourage care plan compliance by using voice to show the educational videos assigned to the patient, and even start the videos before leaving the room.

For patients wanting more health information, integrations can be set up to play population health messages or trigger workflow prompts for following up with patients.

3. Discharge planning

Voice assistant configurations may also help prepare patients for success after discharge.

Integrations with an interactive TV platform, EHR, and healthcare directories connect patients with the resources they need most — including playing educational videos, sharing medication information, fulfilling meds-to-beds, and more.

Clinicians can also call up these resources with a voice command while they’re in the room to review with patients. Pulling up a discharge checklist, for example, gives patients an opportunity to clarify questions about their care plan, and reinforces the confidence that they are prepared for their transition of care.

Voice Assistant

4. Patient comfort & safety

Integrations with the facility’s building automation system and interactive TV platform can create voice-activated controls for the room environment and television in the room.

Without getting out of bed or calling for a nurse, patients have the option to use voice commands to adjust lights, temperature, and window coverings, as well as TV power, volume and channels.

Smart room voice controls empower patients in their room and give them a safer hands-free option to stay comfortable.

Additionally, nurses can use a voice assistant to call into the patient room without entering it, helping the clinical team with infection control and workflow management.

5. Patient questions & requests

Common questions patients have can be answered with programmed responses that play back on the voice assistant, or display on the TV, so nurse workflows aren’t interrupted.

Likewise, non-nursing patient requests can be set up with a voice-activated communications alert for the appropriate staff, such as room assistants, housekeeping, maintenance, or spiritual services.

6. Positive distraction

For some patients, the familiarity of a voice assistant may help them feel more at ease.

Similar to how they use voice assistants at home, patients in a hospital can use voice commands to call up favorite music, get the latest news, or play games.

The popular functions from the consumer side of using voice turn into anxiety-reducing tools for patients while they’re admitted.

Voice assistants can also integrate with an interactive TV to easily connect patients to positive distraction content available there, such as on-demand movies, TV programming, relaxation channels, and other engaging outlets the organization may offer.

Find the right partner for voice strategies

With the consumerization of healthcare, patients are increasingly expecting the same conveniences and control in a hospital room that they have at home.

And with SONIFI Health’s expertise and our close partnerships with voice technology providers, voice assistants can be purposeful and impactful additions to your patient rooms as part of your patient experience, workforce and smart room strategies.


Learn more about how SONIFI Health’s seamless integrations simplify technology for your clinicians and modernize the patient experience.

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