Background: Voice-controlled intelligent personal assistants (VIPAs), such as Amazon Echo and Google Home, involve artificial intelligence–powered algorithms designed to simulate humans. Their hands-free interface and growing capabilities have a wide range of applications in health care, covering off-clinic education, health monitoring, and communication. However, conflicting factors, such as patient safety and privacy concerns, make it difficult to foresee the further development of VIPAs in health care.
Objective: This study aimed to develop a plausible scenario for the further development of VIPAs in health care to support decision making regarding the procurement of VIPAs in health care organizations.
Methods: We conducted a two-stage Delphi study with an internationally recruited panel consisting of voice assistant experts, medical professionals, and representatives of academia, governmental health authorities, and nonprofit health associations having expertise with voice technology. Twenty projections were formulated and evaluated by the panelists. Descriptive statistics were used to derive the desired scenario.
Results: The panelists expect VIPAs to be able to provide solid medical advice based on patients’ personal health information and to have human-like conversations. However, in the short term, voice assistants might neither provide frustration-free user experience nor outperform or replace humans in health care. With a high level of consensus, the experts agreed with the potential of VIPAs to support elderly people and be widely used as anamnesis, informational, self-therapy, and communication tools by patients and health care professionals. Although users’ and governments’ privacy concerns are not expected to decrease in the near future, the panelists believe that strict regulations capable of preventing VIPAs from providing medical help services will not be imposed.
Conclusions: According to the surveyed experts, VIPAs will show notable technological development and gain more user trust in the near future, resulting in widespread application in health care. However, voice assistants are expected to solely support health care professionals in their daily operations and will not be able to outperform or replace medical staff.
Ermolina, A., & Tiberius, V. (2021).
Voice-Controlled Intelligent Assistants (VIPA) in healthcare: an international Delphi study.
Journal of Medical Internet Research, 23(4), e25312, doi: 10.2196/25312.