There is a massive shift in technology taking place right now that is affecting how patients find information today. Voice search is no longer a novelty. Instead of asking Alexa or Google for the weather forecast or answers to random trivia questions, individuals are using voice search for important day-to-day tasks—particularly, those related to healthcare.
According to Gartner, conversational and AI platforms are going to be the most important, high-level imperative in the next decade, and patients finding health information on those devices and platforms will become the norm. In fact, our recent study found one in ten patients today use voice devices to find health information, and 42.7 percent of patients who search using voice want to use voice devices to book appointments.
In the healthcare field, everyone from hospitals, to urgent care clinics and insurance providers needs to be prepared for this shift and be able to answer (quite literally) the consumer demand for voice search capability. But this means organizations need to rethink how they’re storing and sharing their information to allow for accurate voice search results. Voice search comes with a whole new set of challenges health systems have not faced with traditional search engines like Google. Whereas when you type a question into Google it presents you with a list of potential options, with voice search there is only one opportunity to get it right.
Consumer questions about health related services are bound to be complex. Users will not just be asking for the name of a healthcare provider, they’ll be looking for one that suits their needs. For example, if you were to ask “What dermatologist near me accepts my insurance?” a traditional search would yield several options in your neighborhood. If that question were asked to Alexa, she would share what she felt was the best result. This means healthcare providers need to ensure their information is available (and accurate) in order to stand a better chance of being Alexa’s choice result. If a health system does not update these attribute data points, like the type of insurance their providers accept, it risks not turning up in a result.
While preparing for this new reality may seem daunting, there are a few key steps health systems can take to get up to speed on voice search:
Getting your provider data and information organized seems like an obvious first step but it can be more challenging than you think. As Google, Facebook, and Amazon build public knowledge graphs that intelligent systems call upon to provide voice responses, healthcare organizations need to ensure their information is up-to-date and accurate internally first. This can be daunting since so much of an organization’s information may live in multiple locations within a health system
Specifically, information like name, locations, contact information, and specialties treated is key. Start by identifying where all of this data lives—CMS platforms, Excel spreadsheets, credentialing/medical staff office, etc—then work to centralize and organize it. Once this is complete and accurate internally, healthcare organizations can take the next step.
House your data
After a health system has successfully organized its data, it is time to figure out where to house it. The data house should be constructed so it allows the data to be structured in away that Google, Amazon, Cortana, and other intelligent services can “read” it.
By making data readable, it enables intelligent voice search systems to provide a correct answer to a voice query. Data must be housed in a structured way so it can easily connect to the public knowledge graphs that voice and intelligent services rely on.
Syndicate your data
Once an organization’s data is organized and housed properly, the next step is making sure the data is syndicated externally to the places where patients are searching for answers.
As voice search grows in popularity and matures in its capabilities, patients are relying on health system websites less and less. In fact, there’s been a 32 percent year-over-year decrease in patients consulting health system websites. But an often overlooked side effect with the shift to consulting intelligent services for answers is that the computer (and phone) screen is becoming obsolete, too. End users are no longer only visually taking in information, and instead prefer an audio response. Just like organizations needed to adapt five years ago to make their information mobile friendly, they now need to make sure it is voice friendly. The only way to accomplish this is to send data, in a structured way, to the online ecosystem and make sure that the data owner is the only person who has control over that data to make the appropriate changes. From there, data can be fed to the appropriate sources where end users can find the information they seek.
Patients are already demanding voice and intelligent systems to aid in their healthcare journey. It’s now up to healthcare providers and organizations to deliver on this demand. The health industry needs to jump on this shift in order to remain competitive in the marketplace. Organizations that are able to deliver their information via voice search stand the best chance at remaining competitive.
Carrie Liken is head of healthcare for Yext, a provider of digital knowledge management services.
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