June Healthcare Hot Takes: Voice Recognition Could Facilitate Behavioral Healthcare Access

Healthcare Hot Takes is Luma Health’s monthly rundown of healthcare innovations happening right now. Check out what the industry is thinking, reading, doing. This month’s topics are behavioral healthcare and ER wait times.

Story #1: Amazon is Designing a Wearable Device That Can Recognize Human Emotions.

Seemingly straight out of a sci-fi movie, this voice-activated, wrist-worn, wearable device will be able to determine the wearer’s emotional state from just his or her voice. The hardware device will be embedded with numerous microphones and will be paired with an associated smartphone app.

The goal of the product is to eventually provide wearers with recommendations on how to socialize and interact more effectively with their surroundings. Amazon also hopes the device will provide insights to help them better design future health products.

Amazon’s Lab126, the hardware company behind Amazon’s Echo smart speaker and Fire phone, and the Alexa voice development team are leading the charge. The whole project has been tightly under wraps, as Amazon is known to do with their more experimental ventures. Sources have stated that beta testing is underway, and yet it is still unclear as to how far along development has to go and whether the product will ultimately be released commercially.

This technology is another step towards Amazon becoming a leader in voice recognition software and consumer electronics, while also furthering their foray into healthcare (see: Haven).

Luma’s Hot Take: At its simplest level, this device would be able to sense the wearer’s emotional state and respond accordingly — a fast-paced song for an energetic workout, for example. At a higher level, the wearable would be able to sense a progressive pattern of emotional states and even be able to predict feelings of depression and anxiety. The behavioral healthcare implications for this could be significant, potentially guiding patients to access needed behavioral healthcare.

Here’s a look at some simple patient engagement campaigns that promote essential care and high-dollar procedures to help fill both care gaps and revenue gaps.

Story #2: As ER Wait Times in California Continue to Increase, More Patients are Leaving Without Completing Medical Care

In 2017, 352,000 ER visits in California hospitals ended with patients leaving before their medical care was complete. Compare that to 2012, when the number was 128,000 visits. That’s an increase of 57%! The two main causes for this include ER overcrowding and longer wait times.

From 2012 to 2017, California ER trips grew by 20%, or almost 2.4 million. In terms of wait times, in 2017, the median ER wait time before inpatient admission was more than 5 ½ hours. ER wait times in California remain the highest in the country. For example, in 2017 again, the median length of stay in the ER nationwide was on average 80 minutes shorter than the median length of stay in California (before inpatient admission).  

When a patient leaves the ER after seeing a doctor but before they are cleared, it is classified as “leaving against medical advice or discontinued care”. This can include instances when patients are informed of the risks by their doctor and sign consent forms, but it can also include instances when patients abruptly leave the ER.

“Patients leaving the emergency room too soon are deliberately putting themselves at more risk for morbidity and even mortality.”

Dr. Steven Polevoi, Medical Director at the UCSF Helen Diller Medical Center Emergency Department at Parnassus Heights

Luma’s Hot Take: Patients leaving the ER abruptly and against medical advice are much more likely to be readmitted for increased complications. Not only does the patient experience suffer, their health is put at serious and potentially dangerous risk. Working toward increasing access to care is a top priority for us at Luma Health. It is critical that patients get the care they need, when they need it, and exorbitant wait times in the emergency room are simply unacceptable.

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