According to an article published in the Lancet in April 2020, following the surge in cases of COVID-19, the healthcare industry around the world raced to adopt remote treatment approaches in order to avoid patients being seen by health professionals face to face, unless absolutely necessary.

During the past months, ReadSpeaker has witnessed an unprecedented increase in the usage of text-to-speech tools deployed in medical fields around the world. Along with Education, this was the domain in which we observed the greatest increase in usage (also see the article on Education here). 

Graph showing surge in ReadSpeaker TTS use in Healthcare
Over the past months, usage of ReadSpeaker text to speech in the Healthcare industry has risen dramatically.

ReadSpeaker provides a number of text-to-speech solutions to the medical industry and related service providers, supporting accessibility and a more user-friendly fruition of health-related information and services for users.

With its difficult medical jargon, health information can be intimidating, especially for audiences with learning and physical disabilities, literacy difficulties, and second-language challenges, not to mention those who are part of the growing senior population. 

Organizations in the Healthcare industry use ReadSpeaker text-to-speech solutions to speech-enable their web and mobile content and increase patients’ understanding of complex medical topics. ReadSpeaker synthetic speech is also embedded into medical devices, such as equipment used for diagnostics.

Chart comparing use of ReadSpeaker TTS in Healthcare 2019 on 2020
Usage of ReadSpeaker text-to-speech solutions has risen across the Healthcare industry in 2020

“I’d estimate that the majority of patient consultations in the United States are now happening virtually”, says Ray Dorsey, director of the Center for Health and Technology at the University of Rochester Medical Center (Rochester, NY, USA). “There has been something like a ten-fold increase in the last couple of weeks. It’s as big a transformation as any ever before in the history of US healthcare. But the real question is whether these measures will stay in place after the pandemic subsides?”

The Lancet, April 11, 2020.

And as countries start to relax lockdown, it is clear that the lives people around the world will return to will differ significantly from pre-pandemic times. During this emergency, what we considered to be our normal lives has changed. Humans have acquired new habits. There will be changes in many fields, including disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment, and rehabilitation.

Health is key

By affecting people around the world, COVID-19 has had an impact on the global economy. Entire industries have paused. People have worked remotely or have even closed their businesses. Clearly, the virus has significantly impacted medical and service staff on the frontlines, as well as the facilities they work in. 

The pandemic has highlighted the vulnerability of healthcare systems. For example, in a number of countries, overburdened hospitals will need to undergo a substantial overhaul: infrastructures and processes will need to be adapted and changed in order to ensure safer care environments, and enable staff and patients to cope with future emergencies in a safer and less overwhelming way. 

Here are some aspects that are likely to become more commonplace after the pandemic has come to an end:

1. Artificial intelligence (AI) as an essential resource

The COVID-19 outbreak emphasized the need to make use of all the available tools to find the solutions humankind needs to thrive. We saw that solutions leveraging AI were  useful for alerting populations and frontline workers. The same goes for apps that help track the spread of the virus, capturing health parameters from individuals, along with the places they visited. Moreover, AI helps public and private health care organizations to optimize the way they administer resources. AI coupled with speech solutions is able to deliver crucial information to frontline workers whenever necessary, in an effective and unobtrusive way.

Last but by no means least, AI is used by immunologists and researchers in their efforts to understand viruses and develop vaccines.

2. Point of care can be optimized

The huge potential of digital medical care has come to the fore during this pandemic. Robotic solutions were used to deliver medical care to patients on hospital wards. During the past months, there was a massive increase in telemedicine. Not to mention a wide array of apps for a variety of health domains used by individuals during this period. Examples include equipment used by low-risk COVID-19 patients who were sent home to free up hospital beds for others who needed more intensive care. The patients at home had oxygen monitors, digital stethoscopes, and portable ECG monitors. They regularly shared their results remotely with their physicians. This removed the need for doctor and patient to be in the same place, helping curb the spread of the virus. In the future, we are likely to see a point of care shifting to the patient. Adding speech output to diagnostic equipment helps inform stay-at-home patients in a clear and reassuring manner.

3. Healthcare in the home

Many people around the world have been rigorously applying the #stayathome physical distancing principle, only leaving the house for essential needs, for months. The majority of non-urgent medical consultations have been postponed until after the critical period.  However, thanks to telemedicine, medical care can actually come to our homes, in many cases. Understandably, there has been a great increase in demand for this over the past couple of months. In fact, telemedicine has been used for some time in remote regions of the world. Within the context of a pandemic, in which the less doctor-patient contact there is the better, remote consultations are an effective solution. Actually, we may see robots delivering care to patients’ homes pretty soon.

“In shifting towards virtualised care in response to COVID-19, health-care planners worldwide are drawing from China’s experiences. In China, patients were advised to seek physicians’ help online rather than in person after the pandemic first emerged in Wuhan in December, says Yanwu Xu, principal health architect for Baidu Health, one of China’s largest internet corporations, and one of three companies contracted by the Chinese Government to implement virtual care technologies.”

The Lancet

So, if you are creating tomorrow’s healthcare solutions, contact us to discuss how ReadSpeaker text-to-speech solutions can make for an enhanced patient and provider experience.