The device as the persona


There is arguably no greater growth than in the use of personal devices in healthcare. These range from the personal fitness devices on which the incessant 10,000 steps a day are counted on the wrist, to more sophisticated remote heart monitoring devices that can be hacked by cyber terrorists.

Add to this the explosion of voice command devices (VCD’s) such as Alexa that are quickly being adapted to a variety of settings, many of the most interesting being in healthcare. Healthcare creates enormous opportunities for these vendors, with the ability to give hands free commands that can integrate with other devices linked to the VCD like lights, heat, and emergency services. But as their application expands in the segment, they must align with the demands to fit into the critically important patient experience aspects of modern healthcare. They need what in the old days what would be called a “bedside manner” since in reality the VCD will be supplementing what a human medical professional would normally do.

So how do UX designers develop personas for these and the many other devices that will increasingly talk to, analyze, photograph and advise patients when their healthcare professional is not available? The move to value-based healthcare has shifted these devices from being cool gadgets to being elements in the reduction of healthcare costs. If a VCD or an iPhone can reduce the number of office visits, the investment of $99.99 is a bargain.

But how can the elderly get the same feeling they got from their Marcus Welby-era family care physician from their new 2017 models, Alexa and Siri ? How far should these vendors go with developing a “persona of the device” that maps with the patient’s desired experience? And to add to the complexities, how does the VCD differentiate the various personas speaking into ?

In every case it starts with the voice. Would you like your personal healthcare device to have an Australian accent, or maybe that of a gruff New Yorker?  On the inbound side, can the VCD detect the difference between my voice and that of someone that is not supposed to access the device ?

Google recently announced the ability for its device to recognize the different voices in a family and map the engagement histories up against those users.  Considering the HIPPA compliance paranoia in this healthcare VCD sector, this voice differentiation is a game changer in the security aspects of the connected health sector.

While the style one desires in the output is an important persona element, research is being conducted on mapping the pattern of communication between device and human. In essence, how do these two “parties” like to communicate with each other and how can they best learn the cadence of their respective voice patterns.

The next evolutionary phase will be focused on the form factor of the device, as a digital patient engagement does not need to be conducted with a black or silver cylinder. Should these devices look more visually human ? The Alexa McDreamy model would certainly be a hit within certain demographics.

Last but not least is the increasing ability to develop device-to-device personas. As AI becomes increasingly mainstream, machine intelligence will include the ability to pair device personas across platforms. Not only will the devices be compatible with their human masters, but they will be able to map this personality pairing with the IoT devices in its network.


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