Alexa: How are smart speakers helping patients, caregivers and clinicians?

Susan Bennett, the voice of Siri, emcees the Voice.Health Summit
Susan Bennett, the original voice of Apple’s Siri, emcees the 2018 Voice.Health Summit. (PHOTOS COURTESY IDHA/BOSTON CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL)

Sarah Lindenauer is product and portfolio manager for the Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator (IDHA) at Boston Children’s Hospital.

Where can you hear the voice of Siri introducing a keynote speaker? Or see the developers of the first healthcare skill for voice present alongside leading pharmaceutical and health insurance companies? Experience demos of cutting-edge voice technologies from 20+ startups from around the world, in simulated healthcare environments?

It all went down October 17th in Boston at the Voice.Health Summit, presented by Boston Children’s Hospital’s Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator (IDHA) as a run-up to the Connected Health Conference. More than 300 leading innovators in voice tech in healthcare came from around the world for a day of immersion and to answer the question, “What’s next?”

Embracing voice technology

Peter Durlach of Nuance Health at the Voice.Health SummitBoston Children’s has long believed that voice represents the next frontier of consumers’ engagement with their health. In 2016, we developed and published the first healthcare skill, KidsMD, for Amazon Alexa. We’ve since been exploring opportunities for voice tech in the clinical environment, including reducing administrative burden, aiding in compliance and documentation or simply offering hands-free communication alternatives for gloved-up physicians. To date, the IDHA team has developed and aggregated more than 100 use cases for voice tech in healthcare, based on real problems encountered by care teams all over Boston Children’s.

The Hacking Pediatrics team distilled these problems to just 10 for an all-day hackathon, held the day before the Voice.Health Summit. Stakeholders inside and outside the hospital collaborated to develop voice skills based on these use cases, and finalist pitch videos were voted on at the Summit in live polls. The two winners, awarded an Amazon Alexa gift set and ongoing support from IDHA, were:

  • My Question, in which Alexa answers commons questions from parents during a child’s hospitalization, and
  • Food Allergy Preparation, demonstrating, through Alexa, how parents can prepare for their child’s upcoming food challenge (or other appointment or procedure).

We look forward to working with these teams to further develop these exciting voice-based solutions.

The largest gathering of the world’s innovators in voice tech for health

At the summit itself, more than 20 speakers — representing pharma, payers, providers, technologists, entrepreneurs and more — shared their perspectives and experience developing and deploying voice-based tech in healthcare.

Karin Beckstrom from ERT Global at the Voice.Health SummitThe talks focused on real-world applications, with real data and real learnings, leaving the audience with truly actionable insights to take back to their organizations. To see some of these inspiring presentations, check out the Voice.Health website in the coming weeks.

At the Voice-First Patient Journey Exhibit, attendees from around the globe had the chance to explore more than 20 voice-based applications in immersive, real-world environments. A few highlights:

  • In a simulated senior living facility, LifePod displayed how its voice assistant helps family and caregivers manage a senior’s day-to-day schedule, medications, appointments, activities and entertainment.
  • In a “lab” setting, Sonde shared its novel technology, which captures and tracks vocal biomarkers — subtle but characteristic changes in a person’s voice that can reveal important aspects of emotional and physical health.
  • In an inpatient hospital room created by Boston Children’s Simulator Program (SIMPeds), Aiva showed off its voice-powered care assistant for patient use, designed to reduce clinician response times, better engage patients in their care and improve satisfaction among caregivers.
  • In a mock hospital charting station, Nuance showcased its conversational AI solutions, which capture 300 million patient “stories” every year and help reduce the administrative burden for clinicians, radiologists and care teams.
  • In a consumer “home,” Wellpepper demo-ed SugarPod, a novel voice-powered smart scale for diabetic patients to document their weight, scan their feet for ulcers and track tasks.

What’s next for Boston Children’s in voice

building your own smart speaker - a demo at the Voice.Health SummitIn preparation for this flu season, Boston Children’s worked with Seattle Children’s Hospital to launch a new Alexa skill, Flu Doctor. This skill helps families learn about the flu and the flu vaccine, as well as find the closest location for a flu shot.

We continue to scout the globe for the most innovative startups in voice-based healthcare technology and to collaborate on specific voice projects both internally and with leading partners.

Learn more and access helpful resources at and read coverage of the Voice.Health Summit by mobihealthnews and MedCity News.