Alexa Skill Aimed at Assisting Alzheimer’s Patients Launches in the UK
A new Alexa skill is available in the UK to help people with early-stage dementia maintain independence. The My Carer Alexa skill allows users to set reminders for daily tasks, like doctors appointments or preparing meals. The Alzheimer’s Society teamed up with marketing firm McCann Worldgroup and digital studio Skilled to develop My Carer to aid the more than 850,000 people with dementia in the UK with over 1 million cases expected by 2025.
The video demonstrates a number of use cases where an in-home voice assistant can help Dementia patients (Alzheimer’s Disease is a specific form of Dementia) maintain independence. Memory loss and forgetting routine tasks such as turning off the oven or taking prescribed medicine that are simple for most people become daily challenges for Dementia sufferers. However, they are critical for the safety and health of anyone living alone. The My Carer Alexa skill can be programmed to remind patients of these tasks as well as help them recall facts about their family or friends. It can be programmed by the patient or a caregiver and is another example of how new voice assistant use cases are emerging beyond simple interactions related to music and the weather.
VOICE ASSISTING PATIENTS
Healthcare is one of the industries advancing in AI innovation, particularly voice. Patients benefit from fewers trips to the doctors for simple treatments and questions by utilizing a virtual “doctor” through a voice assistant or chatbot. This is particularly useful in addressing mental health issues. NYU’s School of Medicine developed an AI tool to identify PTSD through voice analysis with a reported accuracy rate of 89%. “Psychiatry is the only field of medicine that doesn’t rest on the foundation of laboratory medicine,” said Dr. Charles R. Marmar, senior chair of the Department of Psychiatry at NYU School of Medicine. “So we don’t have yet, reliable blood tests for major psychiatric disorders. We’re working on them, and we think voice is one pathway into that.”
Assistants are becoming increasingly accessible in the hospital. Earlier this year Thomas Jefferson University Hospital introduced a program to include smart speakers at patient bedsides. “The goal of the smart speaker is that I have a companion in my room which will help me when I’m in the hospital,” explained Viraj Patwardhan, VP of digital design at the hospital. “So I’m not always pushing the nurse call button, but I can ask basic questions to the speaker and it will start giving me information.”
Outside of patient access, doctors and patients also take advantage of voice technology to save time on documentation allowing more time be dedicated to treating patients. Virtual assistant tools like Saykara or Suki assist physicians and doctors in data entry and record keeping.
REGULATION ROADBLOCK SOLUTIONS
Despite high implementation costs and privacy regulations, voice assistant adoption in healthcare is becoming more common and HIPPA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) eligible skills are entering the market. Last month Alexa released six HIPPA compliant skills from six companies participating in the Amazon Alexa healthcare program. In 2018 CNBC reported that Amazon started a health and wellness team inside the Alexa group to dive deeper into the healthcare space but also address issues with HIPPA compliance. “The team’s main job is to make Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant more useful in the health-care field, an effort that requires working through regulations and data privacy requirements laid out by HIPAA, according to people familiar with the matter.”
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