'Siri, Did I Take My Medications Today?'

MARCH 05, 2019
Timothy Aungst, PharmD
Perhaps it was inevitable, but Siri on Apple devices is slowly getting more concerned about your health and well-being. An update announced March 1st from Apple detailed how Siri was being integrated with health apps to let users know more about their health. Examples that were identified were Snoww, Qardio, HomeCourt, and Dexcom.

The basic premise has been the use of Siri for 'shortcuts' that allow a better user experience and interaction with their mobile devices. In an era that is quickly seeing a vast uptake of voice commands over touch, Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and other voice systems are making significant inroads into peoples lives. This may include a user's car to play music or make a phone call, a Google Home to change the room temperature or set the oven, or now, the ability to ask one's smartphone about their health.

Examples that were shown in the Apple announcement included the ability to ask Siri, "how did I sleep last night," and "what is my blood sugar?" This is a rather big step in the realm of self-monitoring health data for patients, especially compared to years past. We are looking at a movement where instead of patients needing to keep written diaries of their vitals and related health data, using wearables and integrated apps to track everything in real-time without much physical effort (as long as they remember to charge and keep the wearable on and use the app). This data can then be accessed with a verbal question instead of having to trawl through the multiple apps available and look for details.

Why might patients like this? I could imagine it could be beneficial for patients that want to make a quick check on things. Maybe they have a continuous glucose monitoring device and feel a bit off and want a quick audible confirmation of how they are doing. Or, perhaps they are visiting their physician and want to confirm that they took their medications that morning. 

In any event, this whole concept of Siri offering shortcuts to users health information is probably the cusp of where tech companies want to go with patient health data. Arguably, this entire field of digital health aims to change users habits through digital behavior modification. Using alerts, verbal cues, and personalized notices that fit around a patient may lead to better health outcomes. We can expect with time to see Apple, Google, and others take their voice assistants further with how they manage peoples health soon.

Siri Shortcuts boost health and fitness routines [newsroom]. Apple website. Available at https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2019/03/siri-shortcuts-boost-health-and-fitness-routines/. Updated March 1, 2019. Accessed March 5, 2019.