Background: Speech problems are common in people living with Parkinson disease (PD), limiting communication and ultimately affecting their quality of life. Voice-assisted technology in health and care settings has shown some potential in small-scale studies to address such problems, with a retrospective analysis of user reviews reporting anecdotal communication effects and promising usability features when using this technology for people with a range of disabilities. However, there is a need for research to establish users' perspectives on the potential contribution of voice-assisted technology for people with PD.
Objective: This study aims to explore the attitudes toward the use of voice-assisted technology for people with PD. Methods: A survey was approved for dissemination by a national charity, Parkinson's UK, to be completed on the web by people living with the condition. The survey elicited respondent demographics, PD features, voice difficulties, digital skill capability, smart technology use, voice-assisted technology ownership and use, confidentiality, and privacy concerns. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and summative content analysis of free-text responses.
Results: Of 290 participants, 79.0% (n=229) indicated that they or others had noticed changes in their speech or voice because of the symptoms of their condition. Digital skills and awareness were reported on 11 digital skills such as the ability to find a website you have visited before. Most participants (n=209, 72.1%) reported being able to perform at least 10 of these 11 tasks. Similarly, of 70.7% (n=205) participants who owned a voice-assisted device, most of them (166/205, 80.9%) used it regularly, with 31.3% (52/166) reporting that they used the technology specifically to address the needs associated with their PD. Of these 166 users, 54.8% (n=91) sometimes, rarely, or never had to repeat themselves when using the technology. When asked about speech changes since they started using it, 25% (27/108) of participants noticed having to repeat themselves less and 14.8% (16/108) perceived their speech to be clearer. Of the 290 respondents, 90.7% (n=263) were not concerned, or only slightly concerned, about privacy and confidentiality.
Conclusions: Having been added to the homes of Western society, domestic voice assist devices are now available to assist those with communication problems. People with PD reported a high digital capability, albeit those who responded to a web-based survey. Most people have embraced voice-assisted technology, find it helpful and usable, and some have found benefit to their speech. Speech and language therapists may have a virtual ally that is already in the patient's home to support future therapy provision.
- Mobile phone
- Parkinson disease