Diane Zuckerman

Guest Blog: The Next Frontier for Healthcare

By Diane Zuckerman

It is with great enthusiasm that I participate in the HyperVoice Consortium to advance the standards, capabilities and applications of this emerging model for organizing and navigating voice. Nowhere is voice more important than in healthcare. We need conversation, transparency, and patient engagement desperately to improve quality care and patient safety. Every patient will tell you they want to be heard, especially by their doctor, or at least by someone on their care team. 

I personally communicate mostly by email and I’m the first to say, it’s not always great. Depending on my mood, time constraints, the last 100 emails I just read, I respond differently – and clearly I’m not alone. Perception is everything when reading. There is perhaps an occasional smiley face, but no laughter, no sighs, no pauses, no tempo, no pain, no stammering – just words on a page. A patient’s chart is just that – words on a page and now mostly check boxes in an EMR (electronic medical records) database. Everyone looks the same on paper – voice is what differentiates them.

The patient’s voice imparts a great deal to the art of medicine, which all doctors will convey is highly relevant to a successful diagnosis. When a patient tells his/her physician about the pain they are experiencing, the voice, intonation, cadence and timbre is far more critical than a number on a 1-10 scale.

Conversation is paramount in health. 70-85% of a diagnosis comes from a good history and physical exam with no tests required. Yet, physicians tell us repeatedly that getting to listen to the patient and take in a robust history is what they have the least time to do. They say they want to hear the patient’s story in their own words, but studies confirm the patient is interrupted after approximately 12 seconds of narrative.

Some patients are shy, forgetful, nervous or anxious and have trouble telling their story when they feel rushed and/or get interrupted – within 12 seconds.  Thus, if the patient told their story in the comfort of their own living room it is likely to be more coherent and complete. They could simply record it on their phone or PC and share it with their physician. HyperVoice could be used to record the patient’s story during their visit as well.

Most importantly, with HyperVoice, the narrative is tagged, structured and can be easily searched so the physician can listen to the patient’s voice regarding complaints such as pain, and not just look at a number on a scale.

While HyperVoice is in its nascency, I feel strongly there is a place for it in healthcare and a real opportunity to improve patients’ quality of care.