According to Manhattan Research data, over half of U.S. online adults say they are interested in using AI-enabled voice assistants for health.

Think about that. One out of two. Never mind that Alexa and Google Assistant are still working out the bugs. Heck, Apple's HomePod didn't even have a launch date when we conducted our survey (it made its debut on February 9). Yet voice technology has captured our imaginations. On deeper inspection, it's not hard to see why:

  • Input overload. As smartphones and tablets have proliferated, so has the need to type. Like, everything. One promise of voice is to reduce the strain on tired fingers and thumbs. For patients with debilitating conditions (or simply aging hands), voice offers even more of a respite from tiny keyboards.
  • Convenience.  The voice data are especially telling when you look at which health-related skills (voice apps) appeal most to adults. Patients told us they want to use voice assistants to make day-to-day tasks easier, such as scheduling doctor's appointments and remembering to take medication. Consider this: Patients with bipolar disorder may take 3 or 4 daily medicines and see 2 or 3 doctors and therapists. Who wants to type all of that into an app?
  • Youth. Targeting younger patients? You'll want to think hard about the voice interface. Our data show that diseases affecting younger people correlate with greater interest in voice assistants. For example, more than half of U.S. adults with cystic fibrosis – typically diagnosed by the age of 2 – reported specific interest in receiving medication reminders via voice devices.
  • Cool factor. Interest in broad voice applications may wane over time. For now, how cool is it to talk with a bot about psoriasis in your bedroom? Cool enough that Otra Mobility launched an Alexa voice skill called PSOteen, which gives daily disease management tips to teens diagnosed with psoriasis.

Digging deeper into our consumer AI data – now available to Manhattan Research Cybercitizen Health®subscribers – the seeds of a paradigm shift are revealed. The way patients search for information is changing.

If your brands spend heavily on paid search, this applies to you:

More than a quarter of smartphone users (26%) report using voice search, typically Siri, to access information on their smartphones. That's a figure we expect to increase in the years ahead. When you break it down by disease, again we see the "youth effect." Nearly 40% of smartphone users with type 1 diabetes (diagnosed in childhood) report using voice search on their smartphones, and in some categories these percentages are much higher.

What it means: If more health consumers are speaking their questions to Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant and Cortana, that means fewer health consumers are scrolling through search results pages, where your ads are currently running.

In the short-term, marketers may see slight drop-offs in mobile website traffic. They'll certainly see increasing mobile search costs.

sample voice assistant screen shot

Long-term? Once the digital titans figure out how to monetize their voice assistants, I think we will witness a bidding war of potentially outrageous proportions. Many brands may find themselves priced out of this luxury real estate market, which is to say, pining for the days when their keywords lived in more upscale surroundings.

To offset these challenges, savvier patient marketers (like you) will start planning ahead. For example, you might take note of which publishers consistently grab the top organic search results, aka, the top voice assistant results. Partnerships with these SEO-friendly companies could become increasingly valuable. You will also undoubtedly be thinking hard about the mobile experiences you provide outside of search -- on Facebook. Instagram. Your When patients do come across your content, what will make them stick around?

The coming voice revolution doesn't necessarily mean pharma companies should run out and build skills for all their treatments. It does mean that, during brand planning SWOT exercises this year, "voice assistants" deserves to be listed on your whiteboard. Will it be a Threat or an Opportunity?

We'd love to help you answer that question.

Molina's hunt to grab small MCOs expands growth into new markets

View Now