Hospitals Join to Build Skill for Amazon Alexa

Seattle Children’s and Boston Children’s Hospitals Join to Build the Flu Doctor Alexa Skill

Available now, an Amazon Alexa skill called the ‘Flu Doctor’ has come just in time for flu season. Created by the Seattle Children’s Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital, the Flu Doctor is armed with information about the flu and the flu vaccine with the purpose of keeping children healthy.

Credentials of the Flu Doctor

Flu Doctor responses have been vetted by communications experts at the Center for Disease Control, The American Academy of Pediatrics, pediatric infectious disease experts, and the WA State Department of Health. The Alexa skill is prepared to allow for a two-way conversation about influenza, influenza vaccination, and in finding the nearest flu shot location.

Specific details the Flu Doctor will tell users about include: who should get the shot, when the shot should be taken, where you can get a shot, side effects, treatments, data for pregnant moms, efficacy statistics, common symptoms, types of vaccines, and even how to calm children with a fear of needles. Alexa Show owners can even use the Flu Doctor to watch about a dozen video responses to questions. Flu Doctor is also prepared to learn with their user base. Pediatrician and Seattle Children’s chief of digital innovation, Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson said:

As a pediatrician in digital health, I want to learn about how families may want to use Alexa to help in their homes and family decisions around prevention and health care…We have two awesome teams ready to improve this skills as time unfolds…and keep building more.

This is not the first Alexa skill to give users flu information. In February,Vanderbilt University researchers launched the Alexa skill, Flu Tool. Others healthcare diagnosis skills have been developed but many did not prove to be very useful according to an Advisory Board analysis of research by Quartz.

Voice’s Reach Recognized by Medical Professionals

This Alexa Skill is notable because it showcases the wide ranging application and adoption of voice by the medical industry. Swansan commented:

We are two hospitals, dedicated to children, learning to build increasing capacity in using smart speakers and home-based AI to build trust in the science and safety in vaccines.

The Flu Doctor skill was designed and scripted by Seattle Children’s, while Boston’s Children’s headed the technical development. This is not the first Alexa Skill to be developed by Boston Children’s Hospital, in fact in 2016 they demonstrated the potential for voice in healthcare with the first healthcare Alexa skill, KidMD™. KidMD answers queries for worried parents about their child’s symptoms.

Boston Children’s Moves Beyond Diagnoses

Boston Children’s also continued their development of voice capabilities by experimenting with a variety of use cases designed to increase quality of patient care and operational efficiency throughout the hospital. According to Swanson, Seattle Children’s is anticipating more tools and reminders for vaccines in continuation of this project. It is the first step in taking advantage of smart speakers and voice assistants to share public health information, said Swanson.

We hope to eventually build a comprehensive vaccine reminder tool based on learnings from this build that will remind, inform, and help families support their children. We want parents and families to have access to convenient, personalized, science-backed data and recommendations.

Last year more than 170 children died from the flu, which was a new high. About 80% of the deaths occurred in children that had not received the flu vaccination. The flu vaccine not only reduces the severity of symptoms if someone gets sick, but also largely decreases the risk of getting the flu in the first place.

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