Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Innovation & Entrepreneurship

Speak up! Voice tech’s potential for healthcare


Ahead of the GIANT conference, we talk to Simon Hooper, one of the founders of RemindMeCare and the creator of the Talking Healthcare Conference at GIANT.

Voice tech

Simon Hooper believes that voice tech has the potential to be a game changer – one that can the achieve engagement with the person cared for, whether elderly, with dementia or with cognitive impairment, that has so often been missing with previous innovation. We asked him for his predictions.

MTE: Could you tell us a bit more about voice tech in healthcare? Where can you see this taking us long-term?

Simon Hooper: Unless consumer care tech is fun, rewarding and personalised, it won’t be long before it starts to gather dust. It’s not everyone that wants to tap on a screen, and eyesight can be an issue, too. But nearly everyone – from the day we’re born – loves to be heard!’

Voice engagement alone may not be enough. It’s RemindMeCare’s belief that for supportive interaction to occur daily, any person-focused care system must forge a personalised relationship.

Voice engagement is a good start. Only a system that really knows you, that knows your likes and dislikes and that responds to your memories, can enable more person-centred care provision. And if the system can also provide management functionality that supports the needs of the carer and care facility, then that can represent a significant next step forward in the evolution of tech in care homes.

How are you using AI and other technologies, and where do you see this progressing?

AI is the engine that will drive engagement with voice tech. For us it’s about enhancing engagement between the person and technology. The problem to-date has been that the assistive technology that supports the person cared for is impersonal and functions in the background. And that’s not good enough for consumers to want to become better involved in caring for themselves. We use person-centred care as the corner stone of RemindMeCare’s tech and business logic. If the tech knows you then there’s a better chance that the tech won’t end up abandoned. If one can achieve that then the potential for progress is phenomenal, especially with a broad range of technologies working together to address the health issues of the day.

What other tech trends are emerging in healthcare?

There seems to be a new solution every day – wearables, assistive technologies, apps and IoT – to support daily needs, monitor wellbeing and maintain remote engagement, to provide entertainment and family engagement. It’s not easy for families to decide which particular platform will work best for them. It’s tough enough even for care providers to choose the most suitable care planning system, let alone establish if these new technologies can bring tangible benefits for the client and the business. And now there’s also the potential of voice technology impacting on care provision whether in the community, supported living or in care homes, to add to the conundrum.

And there are many obstacles to overcome first before their potential will fully impact on the healthcare consumer. Including data protection, ubiquitous and reliable broadband, brand trust, pricing to name but a few. One of the keys is the need for the convergence of and connectivity between the new technologies – this needs to happen in a way that does not simply baffle and turn off the consumer.

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We’re convinced that the much talked about “transformation in healthcare” that is supposedly coming, will not only be driven by tech but also by its ability to be person-centred.

That means that the tech must not only provide healthcare enablement but also reasons for a person to want to really take greater control of their and their loved one’s healthcare. Many now believe that the solution to the current global healthcare crisis lies probably not in the realm of today’s healthcare providers but in the hands of the consumer themselves. And, if so, then it’s up to tech to achieve the engagement that will motivate them to want to take such responsibility, as opposed to, as today, expecting the state to take the strain. And no one will give that up easily. So it’s our view that we are in a period of transition rather than transformation, and that it will be a while before clear trends become apparent – other than that tech is here to stay.

Who is active today in bringing the future of voice tech healthcare in the UK?

To date the leads in voice have involved data capture. Communication tools that engage the person seeking or providing information. But voice is beginning to be used directly in the healthcare process. For example, Cambridge Cognition is mapping changes in aging and disease response to treatment and is now trialling remote cognitive testing in people’s homes, assessing the feasibility and performance of this approach using the Amazon Alexa platform. Aylesbury Vale Council is nearly 100 per cent Cloud based and is evaluating the use of AI interfaces, such as Amazon’s Alexa, integrated with Salesforce, to help interact with the needs of their citizens. The London borough of Enfield is introducing Amelia, a robot working on frontline council services, taking resident queries, whilst Hampshire County Council is piloting Amazon’s Echo and Alexa to support people to live independently. The latter plans to develop Alexa “skills” linked to other technology in homes to remind people to stay hydrated and to enable people to live independently for longer. And our care system, RemindMeCare, will provide a suite of voice-activated self-care management and business administration tools that will serve the needs of both the person, their carers and the care providers that they encounter along their care journey, including care in the community, housing, extra care and care homes and local authorities.

The gap between innovative technology and the day-to-day reality in British healthcare is so huge – is it possible to bridge it?

Absolutely. We’re seeing the seeds being sown around us in so many areas of every day life. It’s just taking a bit longer to come to healthcare. But it’s coming. You’ll have seen adverts for online video GP consultations, appointment booking and medication fulfilment. These are just the beginning. And we all know that once adoption takes hold, it increasingly rolls out faster than in previous generations.

Voice tech

Simon Hooper

ComScore predicts that by 2020, 50 per cent of all searches will be voice searches and 30 per cent of all online shopping will be conducted this way. So it’s almost inevitable that voice will become an important engagement tool in care. It’s just not certain yet in what capacity it will occur first. And that’s what the organisations present at “Talking Healthcare” will be exploring, in their respective trials.

What’s going to be unmissable at GIANT this year?

Well we’re biased of course towards voice tech being perhaps the newest innovation on the block. It’s up there with VR and AI. But it really depends what you’re looking for. If it’s an investment proposition, then there is plenty of tech to appraise including, of course, voice innovation. But if you’re seeking to learn of funding opportunities or routes to market, then you’ll find a conference track to fit that need.

About the author

Natalie is a multi-tasking marvel who seamlessly manages the marketing and development of MedTech Engine . Her background is in marketing and communications.

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