Google Assistant Leads Alexa and Siri in Understanding Drug Names 

Google Assistant understands drug names far better than Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri voice assistant, according to a study in Nature Digital Medicine. The research, conducted by Toronto-based life science marketing and commercialization agency Klick Health, Google Assistant was almost twice as accurate at understanding the names of medication compared to its rival voice assistants.

Drug Talk

The study, titled, “Do you understand the words that are comin outta my mouth?” examined how well different AI assistants understand the 50 most commonly dispensed medications in the U.S., both brand name and generic. Google Assistant hit 91.8% accuracy for brand-name meds compared to Siri’s 58.5% and Alexa’s 54.6%. But, all of the voice assistants were better at understanding brand name medications compared to their generic counterparts. Google Assistant, Alexa, and Siri scores dropped to 84.3%, 51.2%, and 45.5% accuracy respectively for identifying generic medicine names.

Perhaps because they are commonly used in everyday language, all of the voice assistants performed best at identifying over-the-counter pain medications such as Aspirin and Tylenol. Weirdly, while Google Assistant and Siri maintained strong scores for recognizing Advil and Ibuprofen, Alexa’s accuracy dropped to just two percent for Advil and four percent for Ibuprofen. That odd outlier in mostly consistent data stands out.

The study also compared how the voice assistants understood the medicine names with different accents. The participants included American and Canadian accents, along with a foreign accent category with a mix of British, Spanish, African, Eastern European, and Chinese accents. All of the assistants dropped in accuracy with foreign-accented words, but without the huge divide between Google Assistant and the others.

Healthy Voice

The intersection of voice assistants and health is growing. Companies like Pillo are raising millions for a smart pill dispenser. Meanwhile, existing vice assistants are starting to partner with hospitals to help improve patient care. Alexa alone has a growing repertoire of Skills to connect people at home with information on nearby medical care or help with home care for people with Alzheimer’s.

But, while the potential for incorporating voice assistants into healthcare is enormous, the study shows there’s still work to be done, as the authors point out. At the very least, ordering Advil or asking if it’s okay to mix it with other medication shouldn’t leave the voice assistant at a total loss as to what it is being asked.


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