Voice Technology in Healthcare - the Future of Inpatient Care

June 17, 2022

A calming, assuring voice is worth a thousand words, if not more. Especially when you are a patient on a hospital bed. Here’s a common sight in an intensive care unit or even a hospital room. An unwell person is lying on a hospital bed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), an IV drip and intravenous injections running through a needle on the arm. And this person wishes to view their chart or watch a movie. However, they are too fragile to move their hand to press the call bell, let alone pick up their cell phone. Fortunately, with technology, they don’t have to make themselves any more uncomfortable than they already are.

They can speak to their phone to get what they need without lifting a finger. Our voice is our first medium of communication with the world around us. Other than information, it is also one of the most effective modes to convey emotions through tone, accent, inflections, etc. Today’s voice technology is ready to be taken beyond Siri and Alexa.

Voice assistance software now can understand many nuances in vocal communication and cater to a wide variety of requests. Depending on whether the voice sounds anxious, relaxed, or angry, the urgency of the response can be determined. At the other end, digital voice assistants can express better than before. They can adorn personas that match the user’s personality. Voice interface designers actively work on understanding the user to pair them with an appropriate assistant.

It is not a surprise then that these assistants have caught the users’ fancy. About 50% of US adults use voice to interact with their smartphones and other devices. About 25% find speaking much more natural than typing. The technology’s popularity is only bound to grow in the years to come. Forecasts suggest that by 2024, the number of digital voice assistants will reach 8.4 billion units–a number higher than the current world population.

Voice assistance where it's needed: healthcare

Understanding and emoting better enable voice assistants to soothe the troubled, lonely patient on a hospital bed, bringing a change in the quality of their stay in the hospital. The technology carries the promise of becoming an indispensable tool for patients in a regular hospital room and those in palliative or elderly care too. Besides, it would bring much-required relief for the caretaker, including hospital staff.

Moreover, the patient has mental and emotional satisfaction in knowing that they have a companion by their side whenever they need it. Much anxiety and uncertainty can be addressed just by having this option. Patients can call for a meal, play an online game, ask for a doctor, check their latest medical reports, and, of course, need only to say the word in an emergency. From the critical to the good-to-have, the service is less than a phone call away.

Indeed, in early pilots, assistants are increasingly being thought of as friends by patients who figuratively hold their hand through the toughest of times.

Assisting the elderly with voice technology

Learning the dynamics of a new phone application is challenging, especially when you are unwell. This challenge multiplies with the ageing patients. The senior population are late adopters of new technologies. Voice brings advantages that are making it increasingly preferred by the elderly. Voice assistants eliminate many complexities for touch and display devices. The only challenge is then to work with the natural resistance to anything new.

Looking Ahead

This is not to say voice assistance doesn’t have its share of challenges. Interestingly, one of the problems is that of plenty. Almost any feature you can think of can be integrated with voice technology. However, the user must be nudged to discover the many features. Users seem to come to voice assistance only for a handful of functions like setting reminders or listening to music. For advanced use cases, where the answer is complex, voice-only interfaces are limiting and not as intuitive to use.

Fortunately, modern voice interfaces have responded by using voice where it’s efficient. When only voice isn’t optimal, the interface complements voice with screens and touch. In fact, displays along with voice interfaces improve the discoverability of voice features. This allows a new set of multimodal interfaces in the voice space, which prioritizes utility and functionality.

At Lana, we strive to create better patient experiences by eliminating the friction between patients and technology. Learn how the Lana Bedside Companion helps patients during their stay at a hospital.


  1. Number of digital voice assistants in use worldwide from 2019 to 2024
  2. Nearly half of Americans use digital voice assistants, mostly on their smartphones
  3. Conversational commerce: creating brand personas for the age of voice assistance
  4. Special report: AI voice assistants making an impact in healthcare
  5. The Future Is Multimodal: Why Voice Alone Will Never Be the Answer