The Startups and Investors Bringing Voice Tech to Healthcare

Voice tech is on the rise. According to a report from Edison Research and NPR, 53 million people in the United States own a smart speaker such as Amazon Echo or Google Home. And, 30% of this group owns three or more smart speakers.

Voice tech is changing the way people shop and search online. For example, voice-powered ecommerce reached approximately $2 billion in 2017 and Gartner predicts that about 30% of web browsing will happen via voice (and without a screen) by 2020.

As smart speaker platforms have matured, more entrepreneurs are leveraging the technology to benefit healthcare. Dozens of healthcare-focused voice tech startups have popped up in the last few years which are backed by top tier venture funds. From using voice analysis to identify behavioral health issues to streamlining physician documentation of patient interactions, startups have incorporated voice technology to improve the value and efficiency of care.

That’s why in this article, you’ll get a comprehensive look at the startups using voice technology to make healthcare better, along with some of the VC’s and accelerators that are backing them.



Platforms for Creating Healthcare Focused Voice Tech Applications

Provider and payer demand for voice applications has steadily grown over the past few years. Boston Children’s Hospital has piloted or promoted dozens of voice applications and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center has supported the development of platforms like Sopris Health and Aiva Health. Other healthcare organizations such as Mayo Clinic, Merck, the American Red Cross, and Amgen are creating their own voice tech products.

Voice Tech Products

Voice technology deployment within large enterprise health systems requires security to meet HIPAA requirements—no easy task. Platforms targeting this challenge include Orbita, a platform designed to simplify the process of designing,, and managing, AI-driven voice and chatbot applications across smartphone and smart speaker channels.

Orbita provides a WYSIWYG editor for creating apps and offers insights that customers can use to improve their performance. Insurers, pharma companies, CROs, and academic medical centers have developed applications with Orbita. As one example, a large payer used it to create a voice application that offers benefit info to members via Amazon Echo and Google Home, leading to improved member satisfaction.

conversationHEALTH is another startup that wants to make it easier to create healthcare voice applications. Its initial use cases target pharma companies to enable the creation of voice and chatbot products to improve sales reps’ performance, complement their medical science liaisons, and support clinical trial sites and investigators. For instance, with conversationHEALTH, when pharma companies release a new drug, they create voice bots that instantly and accurately communicate the benefits of this medication to prescribers.

Using Voice Tech to Improve Physician Documentation and Note-Taking

Physician burnout has increased at a rapid rate over the past few years. In 2017, Medscape surveyed more than 14,000 physicians and found that 51% of them reported burnout, up from the 40% in 2013.

Doctor Writing Notes

Physicians spend hours each week documenting their patient interactions in the EHR. This activity is one of the main causes of burnout—59% of doctors in a 15,000-physician survey reported that bureaucratic tasks such as charting, paperwork, and documentation contributed to their burnout.

To help reduce burnout and ease the documentation burden for physicians and providers, several startups have developed voice tech products. Here’s a look at the primary companies in this space:

  • Sopris Health uses voice recognition and AI-powered text prompts to completely and accurately create provider encounter notes in less than 45 seconds. The mobile-based platform is uniquely designed to assist non-physician providers who typically do hot have access to these platforms due to cost considerations.  

  • MDOps allows physicians to create clinical notes via dictation. With the app, doctors can speak notes aloud and MDOps will transcribe and transfer the data into the EMR.

  • Kiroku targets dentists—its product listens to dentists’ conversations with patients, transcribes them, and then condenses that data into clinical notes.

  • Tenor.ai uses a microphone to listen to conversations between doctors and patients in the exam room. The auditory data is then transformed into the encounter notes.

  • Suki uses voice recognition and commands to help physicians create clinical notes or orders for tests or prescriptions.

  • Notable records audio of each physician-patient interaction and allows doctors to use voice commands to add orders or referrals. With this data, the company suggests it can prepare a written report for doctors to review and sign.

  • Saykara’s solution is similar to Notable. The company’s product listens to doctor-patient interactions and uses the data to add clinical notes and diagnoses to the EHR.

Analyzing Voice as a Way to Diagnose and Track Disease Progression

A growing body of evidence suggests that different aspects of voice like speech rate, pitch, and word repetition can serve as biomarkers.

For example, a number of studies have shown promising results using vocal biomarkers to diagnose Parkinson’s Disease. Additional research has looked at how vocal biomarkers can indicate the presence of depression, dementia, post-traumatic stress disorder, concussion, and other conditions.

Analysis

These findings show vocal biomarker analysis has the potential to make diagnostics faster and more cost-effective. As a result, several startups have begun to develop and commercialize voice-based diagnostic technologies. Here are a few of the most promising companies in this sector:

  • Canary Speech has developed vocal diagnostic models for Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and depression; and, it has completed clinical trials for these models. Canary Speech plans to develop vocal-based diagnostics for stress, anxiety, tiredness, concussion, PTSD, migraine, and other conditions.

  • Beyond Verbal analyzes large voice data sets to develop voice-based diagnostics. Its initial results have shown promise in using vocal biomarkers to detect coronary artery disease.

  • Corti listens to and analyzes emergency calls to help dispatchers identify patients experiencing cardiac arrest in order to more effectively move them through triage and treatment protocols.

  • Healthymize’s product enables passive, ambient remote monitoring of people with conditions like COPD, asthma, and pneumonia to identify potential flare ups and prevent hospitalizations. The company’s technology hasn’t yet received FDA clearance for these applications.

  • NeuroLex offers a voice data collection platform, an API that researchers can use to clean and model voice files, and voice datasets for conditions like fatigue, depression, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. With NeuroLex’s different products, entrepreneurs and clinicians can perform voice-based data collection and analysis.

  • Sonde Health, developing vocal biomarker diagnostic tools and competes with Canary Speech and Beyond Verbal.

  • WinterLight Labs measures hundreds of vocal biomarkers to determine cognitive impairment or mental health issues. Right now, the company is studying potential clinical applications in Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, aphasia, and depression patients.

Streamlining Patient & Provider Communication Via Voice-Enabled Applications

Patient satisfaction impacts providers’ financial performance. A report from Deloitte determined that hospitals with an excellent patient satisfaction rating received $444 more revenue per patient than hospitals with a moderate satisfaction rating. This same report concluded that a 10% increase in patients rating a hospital as “excellent” led to a 1.5% increase in gross margins.

bed-clinic-empty-236380 (1).jpg

But, despite knowing that having more satisfied patients leads to better financial performance, many hospitals and outpatient facilities struggle to create positive patient experiences. For example, 16% of hospitals that participate in Medicare had a one-star or two-star (out of five stars) HCAHPS quality rating in 2017.

Sensing an opportunity to solve this problem, many entrepreneurs have developed voice-powered applications that allow providers to offer a better patient experience. To date, the startups with the most momentum in this sector include:

  • Aiva Health facilitates better care by making it easier for providers, nurses, and caregivers to interact with patients. With Aiva, patients in hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, or assisted living facilities can use an Amazon Echo to easily communicate with their care manager. Providers can respond to these requests via voice from within the Aiva Health app and manage all of their daily tasks.

  • Praktice created Sarah, a voice and chat assistant that can perform medical triage, eligibility checks, referral management, appointment booking, radiology test booking, and more. Hospitals can use Sarah to make their back-office operations more efficient and to streamline patient communications.

  • Syllable allows providers to create voice and chat applications that answer common questions, educate patients about their practices’ services, make referrals, collect data for intake forms, automate scheduling, and more.

  • VoiceFriend increases the safety and engagement of elders who are in senior living and skilled nursing facilities. With VoiceFriend, seniors use Amazon Echo to listen to their schedules and care plans. The Echo-integrated product enables them to alert staff in a hands-free way if they fall or have an emergency.

Increasing Accessibility for People Who Experience Verbal or Auditory Challenges

Millions of people deal with voice problems and speech impediments. Research from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey indicated that about one in twelve children between the ages of three and seventeen had dealt with a communication disorder in the previous year. Another study estimated that approximately 17.9 million adults in the United States experienced a voice problem in 2014.

At the same time, millions more people experience deafness or are hard of hearing. The World Health Organization estimates that 466 million people are deaf or have disabling hearing loss.

Day-to-day life can be much more difficult for people who are deaf or have a speech problem. That’s why several startups are focusing on making everyday life more accessible and enjoyable for people who have verbal or auditory difficulties. Here’s a look at the companies innovating in this sector:

  • Voiceitt has created Talkitt, which is the world’s first speech recognition technology that understands non-standard speech. With Voiceitt, individuals who have non-standard speech effectively communicate with their families, friends, and the outside world.

  • Voxello developed a product called The Noddle System, which allows hospital patients who have speech impairments or disabilities to summon and communicate with their caregivers and family members.

  • VocaliD uses The Human Voicebank (a diverse collection of human voice recordings from 25,000+ people) along with voice blending technology to create unique voices for brands and individuals. People who have speech problems communicate using a text-to-voice service and their unique voice from VocaliD.

  • Ava’s product creates live subtitles for any conversation, improving accessibility and inclusiveness for people who experience deafness or disabling hearing loss.

Engaging Patients and Improving Care Plan Adherence with Voice Apps

Keeping patients engaged and encouraging adherence to care plans can be quite difficult. For example, the care plan nonadherence rate for many chronic conditions is about 50%. Lack of adherence adds significant costs to the healthcare industry—a report estimates that the annual cost ranges from $100 billion to $290 billion.

In addition to problems related to care plan and medication nonadherence, patients who seek unnecessary care drive up costs. Research from the Institute of Medicine determined that “unnecessary services” contribute $210 billion in wasteful spending to the U.S. healthcare system each year.

Ambulance

Voice tech products have the potential to reduce the effects of these problems. By using voice tech to engage patients and direct them to the right point of care, these startups are making healthcare in the U.S. more efficient and effective:

  • Infermedica is a voice and chat enabled diagnostics and triage tool. With Infermedica, patients describe their symptoms and receive potential diagnoses along with care recommendations. Health plan or hospital call center employees can also use Infermedica’s product to route patients to the most appropriate type of care.

  • CardioCube is a voice assistant that helps chronic heart disease patients manage their condition. CardioCube asks patients daily questions that allow their cardiologists to track progression and treat medical emergencies more quickly.

  • CareAngel is another voice assistant product that converses with high-risk, chronic condition patients to track their health and alert their physicians if they might be experiencing an emergency.

  • HealthTap’s Dr. A.I. product competes with Infermedica, asking patients about symptoms and uses that data to share potential diagnoses and recommend where they should seek care.

  • Sensely is a voice assistant and chatbot that helps health plans route their members to the right healthcare providers. It also offers remote monitoring services for congestive heart failure and COPD patients.

  • Pillo Health is a medication adherence solution and at-home companion packaged into a friendly-looking robot. The voice-powered product reminds people to take their medications, answers questions, provides notifications to patients’ loved ones, and more.

Leveraging Voice Tech to Give Elders More Independence

As of July 2015, there were 47.8 million people age 65 and older that lived in the United States. Seniors face a unique set of health challenges—85% of older adults have at least one chronic condition and 60% have at least two chronic conditions. Adults who are 65 and older have hospitalizations at approximately double the rate of adults between the ages of 45 to 64.

Edlers

Other problems experienced by seniors include loneliness (more than 11.3 million seniors lived alone in 2010), decreased independence (1.3 million residents lived in nursing homes in 2012), and increased rates of depression (16% of women and 11% of men age 65+ report having depression).

Here’s a look at the voice tech products that help seniors live healthier and more independent lives:

  • Cuida Health has created a voice assistant called LiSA for Amazon Echo and Google Home that helps elders communicate with family and friends, adhere to their medications, remember appointments, and share how they’re feeling.

  • ElliQ is an interactive voice assistant and tablet that wants to maintain seniors’ health by keeping them engaged. The product makes it easy for older adults to place calls, send messages, play games, share photos, and receive calendar reminders.

  • LifePod has created a voice assistant for seniors and their caregivers. The product monitors seniors’ daily routines, tracks and promotes medication adherence, and simplifies communications between caregivers and patients.

  • Memory Lane is a voice assistant for Amazon Echo that allows seniors to record stories and memories from their lives (as a way to promote better memory) and share them with their families.

  • RemindMeCare’s Amazon Alexa app keeps seniors engaged by enabling remote management and activity scheduling, offering voice-based entertainment, and more.

  • Reminder Rosie is a voice-based reminder system for seniors that helps them remain independent longer. The app can prompt seniors when they need to take their medicine, help them maintain their health routines, and allow providers and caregivers to track their schedules.

Voice Tech Startups' Funding and Investors

This article has looked at dozens of voice tech startups like Sopris Health, Infermedica, Voiceitt, and Orbita that are focused on improving healthcare. To help you better understand these startups’ positions in the market, we’ve created a database that includes their total funding raised to date and the venture capital firms that have backed them. Here’s a look at it: