Voice Search Trends in Healthcare

Every fall, we host an incredible group of individuals who speak about top trends in technology. Our annual conference, ONWARD, is a gathering of some of the top minds in technology and media, and I am always impressed by the level of insight we gain each year — especially as it relates to where the world of technology is going, and the ways businesses can evolve to keep up.

One of the top themes I have seen when visiting with over 275 health systems in the last year, is how voice search is going to change the landscape of the patient journey. Health systems are looking for ways to incorporate a voice strategy into their operations and many — if not all — of the ones I speak to really don’t know what their strategy should be.

Over the last few months, I have spoken on panels, been a guest on multiple podcasts, hosted webinars, and written white papers, all around the topic of voice in healthcare. The main conclusion of them all — voice is the next frontier, and those who get ready today will dominate the market when voice becomes more mainstream.

Here’s everything we learned at ONWARD18 with respect to voice, and how it specifically relates to healthcare:

1. Voice is about action, and people want things that are immediately helpful.
Maria Wang-Faulkner from Google noted that voice queries are 40x more action-oriented than search. What does action look like in healthcare? It means people asking questions about where to fill their prescriptions, or where the nearest urgent care is located. Patients are looking for quick, immediate answers. Have you thought about how your health system can provide answers to action-oriented questions?

2. People expect a conversation.
Searches performed using voice devices are more conversational than search. When you search for the weather on your browser, for example, you might type in ‘weather Boston.’ But when you ask Amazon Alexa about the weather, you’ll probably ask a conversational-based question:

“Alexa, what is the weather going to be like today and do I need an umbrella?”

In healthcare, this means thinking about the questions that patients are asking about their healthcare. They are no longer asking about ‘doctor near me.’ Instead, they’re asking more complex, conversational questions:

“Hey Google, find me a cardiologist within five miles of where I live who is rated five stars and accepts Cigna.”

Can you answer this question today if someone asked Google Home or Amazon Alexa?

3. Screens change everything.
Voice devices are not going to become the only way patients find information, so don’t put all of your eggs in the voice basket. However, Google is seeing that nearly half of their users are using voice and touchscreens (mobile devices) to perform a search. In healthcare, this means that constructing your digital strategy to impact patient acquisition needs to focus on answering questions via a voice device, but sending the action or data point to a mobile device.

What are ways you can immediately prepare for the new world order? The first step is making sure your website is voice-ready. A majority of health systems that I met with have embarked on a website redesign strategy over the last year. If you are part of this category, have you asked your design partner about ensuring your website is voice ready? The best way to ensure your website (whether it is old or new) is voice-ready is to ensure your data is Schema tagged.

Identify the top questions people are asking about your health system and determine whether you can answer them today (you can find these questions in Google Analytics program and AdWords).

Google Analytics: Acquisition → All Traffic → Source/Medium → click on Keywords

Once you find this report, sort by users so that you can see your long-tail keywords.

AdWords: Reports → Predefined (Dimensions) → Basic → Search Terms

It’s easiest to export this report and then sort your search terms so that you can find the longest keywords (‘online appointment near me cardiologist’) or via Google Assistant-matched queries to ads (‘Hey Google’, ‘Ok Google’ and ‘Okay Google’).

If you determined that you cannot answer these questions, it’s time to consider structuring your data so that you can. Structuring your data means using an intelligent database (such as Yext Brain) to manage your information — so that you can connect a specific provider to the location where they work, and to a set of reviews about them, and to the insurance they accept.

The world — and Google — is moving to a place where structured data is king. Voice devices rely on structured data to provide an accurate answer. As we learned at ONWARD18, one of the biggest imperatives for the future is to ensure you are able to capitalize on voice as the next frontier of technology. The only way to do this is to structure your data.

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