Why voice assistants changed how patients search for healthcare
In 2019, 153.6 million people have tried a voice assistant at least once. In fact, 33% of people are now using voice assistants regularly. The adoption of voice assistants and smart speakers has grown rapidly over the years and spans multiple industries. Interestingly, one of the top use cases for voice assistants has to do with healthcare-related tasks and questions.
In fact, 19.1 million people have turned to their voice assistants for healthcare questions in the past few years. Here is a look at how voice search is changing the way patients search for healthcare and what it means for marketers in the healthcare industry.
Consumers & Voice Assistants in Healthcare
According to a recent study by Voicebot.ai, 51.9% of consumers are interested in using a voice assistant to help with a healthcare use case. 7.5% of consumers have already done so. This number may seem small but it translates to roughly 19.1 million consumers.
The biggest reported voice assistant use case for healthcare in 2019 was to ask about illness symptoms (72.9%). People also used voice assistants to ask about medical information (45.9%), find the location of a health-related service provider (37.7%), research treatment options (37.7%), ask about nutrition information (29.4%), and to find a doctor or other provider (28.2%).
Of these questions, Voicebot.ai reported that they were asked consistently across all age groups and genders. Consumers are clearly comfortable using voice assistants to ask a wide variety of healthcare-related topics.
Local Voice Search In Healthcare
Leading into 2020, around one-sixth of all searches are conducted via voice, which means, a brand that is not optimized for voice search could be missing out on about 15% of its target audience. According to the 2019 Voicebot.ai Consumer Voice Assistant Use In Healthcare study, 65.9% of voice search use cases are focused on local search. This means there is a large majority of patients searching for their next doctor, healthcare provider or even just a local clinic via voice search.
When it comes to optimizing for local SEO search through voice assistants, the big thing to keep in mind is ranking. Voice assistants only give 1 – 3 results depending on the device, operating system, and type of search. Ideally, the best way to ensure your brand is optimized for voice is to rank first for your most common unbranded keywords. Unfortunately, healthcare brands have relatively low rankings for their most common unbranded keywords as found in our Local Brand Report: Reputation’s Role on Healthcare.
In addition to low rankings, we found that healthcare brands have low listing accuracies averaging 83% accuracy when all brands should strive for 98% or above. High listing accuracy and presence are essential for any brand that wants to rank in voice search.
How Healthcare Brands Are Preparing For A Voice-First World
Although not every healthcare brand is prepared for local search via voice, many healthcare brands are taking strides to appeal to voice assistant users. Many brands are introducing Alexa skills including Mayo Clinic, the Boston Children’s Hospital, Atrium Health, and the American Red Cross. Other brands like Deloitte, and Libertana, among others, have all researched the impact voice assistants have on older adults and long-term patients and found valuable medical use cases for voice assistants in this area.
In more recent news, Google’s acquisition of Fitbit will only strengthen the use of healthcare in voice search. Fitness devices and smartwatches have been shown to take up 21.8% of healthcare voice-interaction use cases.
People who wear fitness trackers are more likely to visit a healthcare provider than those without smart devices – largely due to prompts on the device. Google’s acquisition of Fitbit will not only help Google to differentiate itself in the rising wearables market but will also play a major role on the use of voice assistants for healthcare-related questions and tasks.
How Can Healthcare Brands Optimize For Voice?
There are many ways that brands can prepare for a voice-first world. Unlike Google or some of the healthcare brands listed above, you don’t need to create wearables or Alexa skills to optimize for voice. Since 65.9% of voice search use cases are around local search, brands should be implementing a Voice Engine Optimization (VEO) strategy in order to reach more patients via voice.
Optimize Your Listings
When it comes to local search, keeping your listings clean and up to date is essential to earning that top-ranking spot. Voice searches on devices without screens offer limited results. The only way you can make sure your hospital, doctor, or pharmacy is listed is by earning that #1 spot.
Optimize your listings by ensuring you have your business name, address, phone number, website, category, hours, and description (a.k.a. NAPWCHD) all up-to-date. Doing things like responding to all patient reviews and answering consumer questions on your listings are also great ways to earn higher rankings.
Voice search queries are typically more conversational and asked in the form of questions. Healthcare brands can optimize for voice search queries by creating content that answers common questions. Think of answering the most frequently asked patient questions such as “How can I pay my hospital invoice?” or “What are symptoms of the common flu?”
Asking and answering these questions on your website might help your brand earn a featured snippet. According to a 2018 study, around 80% of Google Assistant voice search answers come from featured snippets.
Increase Your Site Speed
It’s one thing to have great content but it doesn’t help anyone if your site is too slow. Voice assistants want to give their users the fastest possible answers and if your website is too slow, search engines won’t wait around for it to load. Try to keep your site speed under 5 seconds. You can test your site using Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool.
The final and most important step is to test out how prepared your brand is for voice search. Unfortunately, there is not much insight on how many consumers are finding businesses through voice search. Test your voice search readiness by conducting common search queries on multiple different devices (speakers, phones, wearables, etc.) and voice assistants (Google, Alexa, Siri, etc.).
Each device offers different results and different benefits for brands and users alike. See where your healthcare brand ranks for your most common keywords and discover ways you can improve your voice readiness.