Voice technology is a rapidly growing field and penetrating healthcare just now. That is why there is no clinical voice expert job position, yet.
We talk a lot as physicians and we relay the majority of our information to our colleagues and staff through voice. There is a lot of useful clinical data that can be extracted from the patient-physician interaction, which is just now maturing on the technology side.
This post is meant to help the alternative medical career enthusiast get some fresh ideas. Even if not jobs are available yet, you can create your own opportunity. For example, you can become a clinical voice expert and help companies identify where they should focus their efforts in your particular specialty.
Voice technology is able to exist because data collecting and processing is evolving. And using machine learning is able to put the data to effective use. And 2019 is a great time to learn something about a technology that’s on nobody’s radar.
Clinical Voice Expert Technology
Many of us are already seeing a change in the way we interact with technology. For example, instead of typing in a search term into a browser you might use the voice button to perform the search.
Voice devices such as Amazon’s Echo and Google Home and Apple’s HomePod are referred to as smart speakers. These are the iPod’s of today – standalone devices for now which likely will get incorporated into personal daily-use devices in the future.
As a physician, it would be great to talk to a patient on a telemedicine visit and have the conversation analyzed, documented, and the relevant clinical orders extracted, ready for me to sign.
This is where voice technology wants to be – but isn’t there yet. There are nerds all over the world who are geeking out over voice recognition and speech synthesis and Natural Language Processing.
Voice Technology in Healthcare
Before I delve into what a clinical voice expert can do, I dug up a few tech companies which are working on voice in the healthcare sector. I’ll present them here so that you can get an idea of what’s being worked on. But this only scratches the surface.
The sentinel clue that voice will penetrate healthcare is that almost every voice platform has now incorporated some sort of HIPAA compliance. They are gearing up to be present in the clinical setting.
PeakProfiling interprets audio signals and extracts the emotional state from the speaker. Supposedly, from this data they are able to infer certain medical conditions such as ADHD.
Imagine recording all the phone calls the patient makes to their doctor. Even if they are calling to make an appointment, that voice data can be used to make clinical predictions.
Cogito markets to the salesforce. They hope to offer live feedback to the agent in order to more effectively close a sale or to better gauge the emotional state of the customer on the line.
But they are also using their technology to better determine the healthcare needs of patients on the phone. Are they in distress? Are they emotionally upset? Are they at risk for needing inpatient care?
Parkinson’s Voice Initiative is not so much a company as an initiative to help diagnose Parkinson’s through voice technology.
Speech impairment might be a very early sign of Parkinson’s Disease. And it’s something that a human ear may not be able to differentiate. Of course, the data collected doesn’t have to only diagnose PD, there are many other neurological disorders which may present with dysphonia.
#4. Beyond Verbal
Beyond Verbal has put out some interesting studies and they are gathering vocal biomarkers in order to make all sorts of health predictions using AI.
They showed that there is a potential link between voice data and being able to predict CHF complications. And they also demonstrated that voice characteristics associate independently with CAD.
#5. Sonde Health
Sonde Health wants to improve healthcare by using voice as another physiologic data sign to collect and associate with patient health.
They believe that voice is one of the best biomarkers and serves as a vital sign. The things they can do with voice data is endless.
Augmedix takes the conversation between a patient and doctor and documents it. It’s essentially a remote scribe for clinicians.
Imagine all of that data being collected. Augmedix could in the future acquire a company like Sonde Health and build a disease prediction arm.
Notable is similar to Augmedix and they are trying to streamline the clinical interaction between a patient and doctor. They also advertise that they use AI in order to extract helpful information to be used to improve the clinical visit.
Career Planning for a Clinical Voice Expert
Okay, let’s talk about what we can do as physicians in this space. My goal is to open up your mind to the possibilities. Whether you want to start your own business or be employed by a company or just do consulting work, it’s helpful knowing about forefront technology.
The reason I focus on technology and no so much policy is because medicine has been in stuck in the dark ages for a long time. For the next few years I believe that there will be a lot of jobs in tech in healthcare.
Let’s talk about how to go about creating or finding these jobs.
Gain the Education
You don’t have to go back to school but you can certainly do so if you like. Pursue an official Health Information Technology degree from an online school. You might even be able to have your medical group pay for it.
If you don’t want to pursue something traditional, then take continuing education courses in HIT. Or you can take online courses from Coursera or Teachable until you feel comfortable with the knowledge.
I am a self-learner so I would rather put together my own course. There are many YouTube channels and podcasts which can be my virtual professors.
Develop the Expertise
In the tech field your portfolio of projects serves as your resume. You don’t need anything spectacular. But there are voice applications you can build without a lot of effort.
Writing about it, podcasting about it, and teaching others about it (maybe on YouTube) is a great way to develop expertise and to be viewed as an expert.
You can also be the one reporting on everything voice related. If you’re someone who is a great reporter and great at doing research you might enjoy this. A great example in this space is Teri Fisher MD at voice First Health.
Start Applying for Jobs
Many tech companies, especially the startups in healthcare, won’t necessarily advertise jobs in the clinical voice space. That doesn’t mean that you can’t apply for jobs there.
You can submit your resume and express your interest in the space. Your expertise as a clinician is still quite important even if you are still building your knowledge base in the voice technology space.
Connect with Clinical Voice Experts
LinkedIn is a great place to find serious people who are passionate about their work. Another place might be Instagram.
Whatever topic interests me, I find people who are prominent in that space and I connect with them. When they post something then I try to offer insightful comments.
From their channels I find other channels which are worth following. This is a great way to learn the most up-to-date things in the voice technology field.
Be Active on Forums
There any many forums where tech nerds discuss voice technology. You’ll have to figure out what your particular personality type is and where you fit in best.
If you haven’t used reddit before, it’s a great place to start. You can be anonymous if you like and learn from other commenters, see what they know and what their resources are.
Start a Business
There are numerous great ideas out there in the voice tech space. As a future clinical voice expert you can pair up with an engineer and start your own business, whether it’s an app or focused on data collection.
Don’t just look in the US market for such individuals. Broaden your search to computer scientists, researchers, and engineers all over the world.
Talk to Your Current Employer
If you are already an employee at a large medical group this is the perfect opportunity to get your foot into the voice technology door. Reach out to the IT team and see if there is someone who can point you in the right direction.
Someone there will be working on voice technology. You can request to do some admin time in their department or simply shadow one of the Health IT techs.