Mercy’s new hands-free Amazon Alexa scheduling tool has made long phone waits for patients a thing of the past.

This story is part of 417 Magazine's list of Top Doctors, as nominated by their peers, and they represent the best in medical and surgical care across 77 categories.

It’s the call of liberated voice search users everywhere: “Hey, Alexa!” Alexa, Amazon’s voice-activated smart speaker and search system, has revolutionized mundane tasks. The unobtrusive speaker is an exceptionally good listener, able to recite the weather forecast, read a recipe and even play the latest Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin album with a simple verbal request. 

Now, Alexa can even help those in southwest Missouri schedule a doctor’s visit. The Mercy team recently launched an Amazon Alexa skill that allows users to download an easy-to-use function for their individual Alexa system. From there, users can find physicians using Alexa’s hands-free voice technology, even receiving a handy text message with links to Mercy clinician profiles and an online scheduling link.

Mercy launched the project with the help of VoiceXP, a St. Louis voice marketing agency, and developers at Mercy Technology Services, or MTS. “The system seems simple and straightforward to use,” Digital Acquisition Product Manager Paige Toarmina says. “In reality, the back-end of the skill is quite complex.” Toarmina explains that Mercy’s user experience team built out the voice skill’s entire potential conversation flow, outlining a tree of questions and potential paths for each response. That way, the function won’t get tripped up when patients use slang or offer an unexpected response.

According to Mercy’s Vice President of Brand and Digital Experience Ken Kellogg, the function is just another way for Mercy to stay with the times. “By 2020, 50 percent of all searches will be voice,” Kellogg says. “By 2022, 70 percent [of searches] will be voice. [Voice] is going to have a bigger role than just a search function, and that’s what we’re trying to tease out.”

Toarmina agrees. “We’re looking forward to measuring engagement, which will hopefully allow us to leverage these capabilities into additional channels for our audience.” Ultimately, it’s just another way for Mercy to improve the patient experience. “We’re working on finding [circumstances in which] working through a voice agent like Alexa takes a burden off of you,” says Kellogg. “It could be a lot of different things—finding a doctor like we’re doing now, maybe getting check-up reminders or post-op reminders.” For now, the function is limited to scheduling tasks. However, if this development is any indication, Mercy is charging confidently into medicine’s high-tech future. We can’t wait to see what’s next.

Looking for the perfect healthcare provider? 417 Magazine's annual Top Doctors list features winning physicians in 77 medical and surgical specialties throughout 417-land. These physicians were selected by their peers in the local medical community who voted for them in our Top Doctors survey.

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