Voice-based applications are becoming increasingly popular, driven by the proliferation of smart speakers and consumers using voice search on their smartphones. Voice provides a simple, intuitive way to interact with devices, saving consumers time and clicks. Voice is now making strides in healthcare, an industry that urgently needs the efficiencies that voice can provide.

In medicine, clinicians are subject to large amounts of administrative work, to the extent that these clerical duties dramatically overshadow the time spent taking care of patients. Studies show that physicians spend two hours on administrative tasks (clinical documentation, prescription paperwork, etc.) for every hour they spend on patient care, leading to high levels of physician burnout. The Covid pandemic has greatly exacerbated the situation: caring for the influx of Covid patients adds even more pressure and stress, not to mention the corresponding clerical tasks that the physicians must complete. Voice-based clinical digital assistants can help alleviate some of these pressures.

Clinical digital assistants are a new category of solution that uses voice technologies, machine learning, and natural language processing (NLP) to help physicians with administrative tasks such as clinical documentation, coding, and retrieving relevant patient data like lab results or vital signs from the electronic health record (EHR) system. The most advanced solutions are trained on substantial datasets and can understand medical terms across specialties with high levels of accuracy. They leverage cutting-edge NLP techniques so they understand natural variations in language – users are not required to memorize rote commands; rather, they speak naturally, as they would to a colleague, and the digital assistant understands their intents and completes the requested tasks. Completing these tasks by voice is significantly faster, so physicians have more time and mental energy to devote to patient care.

As clinical digital assistants evolve, there are many types of additional tasks they can potentially take on. Other time-consuming administrative items, like ordering of medications or insurance authorization are obvious examples. More exciting applications including providing more proactive assistance to physicians, such as tracking test results, monitoring the condition of the patient, and then relaying information to the doctors and staff when intervention is needed is possible in the foreseeable future.

Clinicians in the US are already adopting clinical digital assistants to help fight burnout and give physicians more time to spend on patient care. As the healthcare system in India moves to become more digitized, the potential for these clinical digital assistants grows. Determining how best to incorporate these assistants within the larger technology stack of the industry early on will be prudent to help India maximize the transformational potential of technology in healthcare. With foresight and thoughtfulness, India has the opportunity to establish itself as the global leader for using technology innovations in healthcare.