DRG: 23 percent of US physicians use voice assistants at work

By Jonah Comstock
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New research from DRG Digital | Manhattan Research suggests that physicians are already beginning to use voice assistants like Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa at work. In the company's annual "Taking the Pulse" survey of 2,784 physicians, 23 percent said they used a voice assistant "for professional reasons". That's a broad umbrella that includes dictating messages and using Siri for internet searches, but as more and more developers create voice tools for clinical work specifically, this data suggests that the market appetite is there.

Intrigued by the 23 percent figure, DRG conducted a follow-up study wherein they spoke to 100 of the physicians who responded yes. They found that these users liked voice assistants because they were both time-savers and hands-free -- allowing physicians to use their devices during a sterile procedure, or use their device without taking gloves off.

Seventy-eight percent of this smaller group said they used voice to search the Internet on their smartphones, while 48 percent said they dictated to a voice app for messaging or data entry. 

It seems that most of the respondents used a voice assistant built into their phones, but 31 percent said they used a dedicated voice assistant device such as the Amazon Echo. Twenty-nine percent said they used a voice assistant system that's a part of their EHR.

In the open-ended response portion of the survey, 20 respondents mentioned Siri and 14 mentioned Google. Just five mentioned Amazon's Echo or Alexa, and those mentions tended to be negative (i.e. "Alexa is mostly useless").

Most interestingly, also in the open-ended portion of the study, a number of doctors said they even use voice functions for clinical tasks. Twenty-four respondents mentioned using a voice assistant for drug dosing or drug look-ups and 22 mentioned using voice to search for diagnostic or disease information. Seven mentioned using voice to communicate with colleagues and five mentioned using the technology for literature searches.