Virtual assistants will change healthcare, says survey of doctors

March 5, 2013

Eighty percent of physicians believe that within 5 years, virtual assistants will drastically change how they interact and use electronic health records and other healthcare apps, according to a recent survey of U.S. doctors.

Siri and her siblings may be multiplying into the healthcare arena. Eighty percent of physicians believe that within 5 years, virtual assistants similar to the one used by the iPhone will drastically change how they interact and use electronic health records (EHRs) and other healthcare apps, according to a recent survey of U.S. doctors by technology company Nuance Communications. Respondents said that they expect the technology will make them more efficient and free up time to spend on patients.

Responding physicians said that mobile virtual assistants could impact healthcare most by helping them access information in EHRs and navigate through the process using conversational commands. One out of three doctors answering the survey said they spend 30% or more of the day on administrative duties, activities that could be redirected or removed using voice-enabled virtual assistants.

Other findings:

  • 65% of respondents said that the top role for a virtual assistant would be to provide more accurate, timely information to support care or alert them to missing information in records.

  • 73% of survey participants expect virtual assistants could improve healthcare and patient engagement by helping to coordinate care between multiple caregivers.

  • 80% believe virtual assistants will benefit patients most by engaging them in the process, prompting them to adhere to health advice and modifying behaviors.

“Mobile virtual assistants have the potential to reinvent the way we deliver patient care,” says Alireza Shafaie, MD, of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation. “As a consumer, I already experience the value of mobile assistants and would love to bring that natural, intelligence-based dialogue to my work as a primary care physician. For every one patient I see I have to communicate my recommendations in three different places. A mobile adviser that could do that on my behalf in one shot would give me back more time in what truly matters: time with my patients.”