Alexa finds a voice in healthcare. Cedars-Sinai and Boston Children sign new Amazon smart hospital service

Amazon is launching a new service for hospitals that will integrate its voice technology deeper into large-scale clinical settings.

As part of Alexa Smart Properties, the service will simplify the way hospitals and retirement homes deploy and manage Alexa-enabled devices at their properties, the company said.

Both of these solutions connect with the tech giant’s vision for Alexa, Liron Torres, global leader of Alexa Smart Properties, told Fierce Healthcare.

“We believe that ambient computing can dramatically change and improve the way our customers use and interact with technology,” she said, noting that voice technology is “natural, intuitive and accessible”.

“The magic of ambient computing is that it works. You don’t have to learn new technology or new devices,” she said.

By using Amazon Alexa devices in hospital rooms, patients can stay in touch with their families, connect with members of the care team, easily access news and information, and listen to music, depending on the patient’s needs. company. Patients can ask Alexa what they need: “Alexa, tell my nurse I need a pillow”. The use of artificial intelligence to interpret patient intent allows the message to be sent to the appropriate member of the healthcare team using existing hospital communication systems.

Seniors communities like Atria and Eskaton and hospitals like Boston Children’s, Cedars-Sinai, BayCare and Houston Methodist have signed up to add Alexa to some facilities.

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“The voice is intuitive to patients, regardless of age or technology skills,” said Peachy Hain, executive director of medical and surgical services at Cedars-Sinai, in a statement. “Because it’s so easy to use, patients can use Alexa to connect with their healthcare team and be entertained as soon as they settle in, while providers can streamline tasks to spend more time caring.” of these patients. It is a game changer for improving our hospital experience.

Ambient computing in healthcare is a space to watch, with Microsoft’s $ 19.7 billion acquisition of healthcare AI and speech recognition company Nuance.

Hospitals want to integrate voice technology into the patient experience, but one of the challenges has been managing the devices at scale, Torres said.

“A key thing we focus on is accessibility, and not just patients, but also the property of being able to easily deploy devices, manage devices and interact with existing systems so they don’t add systems. additional, ”she said.

The service builds on pilot projects rolled out in several hospitals two years ago, an initiative that gained momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In January, BayCare Health System, based in Clearwater, Florida, piloted the technology at two hospitals in 2019, and then in January plans to deploy Amazon Alexa devices in 2,500 rooms in its 14 hospitals. The goal is to provide patients with smart rooms that allow them to connect with their care team and control devices like television, all hands-free, the health system said.

Also in 2019, Cedars-Sinai controlled Amazon Alexa devices in over 100 patient rooms to allow patients to interact hands-free with nurses and control their entertainment.

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At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals and retirement homes contacted Amazon to activate Alexa voice solutions at their properties, Torres said. “They saw that the voice can help improve, personalize and personalize the customer experience and also allow residents to connect with loved ones when visiting hours were limited. Hospitals also wanted to connect patients to caregivers through voice technology, as supplies of PPE) were limited. “

Based on feedback from early pilots, Amazon has added features to support senior residences and hospitals, such as the capability of video and drop-in capabilities, which allows providers to communicate with patients without the need. to enter their room. This allows hospitals to increase productivity, conserve medical supplies and protective gear, such as masks, gloves and gowns, and free up staff time to provide more personalized care, according to Torres.

Hospitals can also provide personalized information for their facility, such as notifications about schedule changes or cafeteria menus, and skill experiences such as games and podcasts. With smart room technology, patients can communicate with their caregivers, control devices in their room, or stay informed and entertained with news and music, just by asking Alexa.

Alexa Smart Properties tools and application programming interfaces are designed to enable solution providers to easily manage and maintain a fleet of Alexa-enabled devices quickly, remotely, and at scale. By working with solution providers such as K4Connect, Lifeline Senior Living, Aiva – a voice assistant platform for hospitals – and Vocera, senior residences and healthcare facilities can use Alexa Smart Properties to customize a large number of Alexa-enabled devices, according to the tech giant.

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Hospitals can also develop and activate HIPAA-eligible skills, such as medication tracking, to connect healthcare providers to patients in an environment designed to protect their health information.

Torries said Amazon designed Alexa Smart Properties senior living and healthcare solutions with privacy in mind. No personal information is shared with Alexa to use the device, and voice recordings are not saved. Amazon implements administrative, technical, and physical safeguards for protected health information received as part of HIPAA qualifying skill interactions.

Alexa Smart Properties’ current use cases are just the “tip of the iceberg,” Torres said. “Our goal is to be wherever customers want Alexa. We listen to our customers and one of the things we hear from hospitals is that they want to use it in more use cases and we’ll work with them to understand the need. “

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