Piloting Patient Care

New Cedars-Sinai initiative illustrates how using Alexa technology can make healthcare easier

As the year 2020 approaches, the jokes are becoming more and more commonplace.

For decades, we’ve heard about the rapid expansion of technology. Over time, this has given way to people taking for granted the progress that has been made, while lamenting the fact that we don’t enjoy teleportation, flying automobiles, or other fictitious luxuries.

But if you’re realistic, you don’t need to look far to be impressed by the advances that are available. The latest example comes from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in southern California, where patients and caregivers are experiencing the benefits of a pilot program that uses the latest technology to make life easier for both sides.

An Alexa-powered program known as Aiva is making it possible for patients to interact in a hands-free manner with nurses, while giving the patients control over certain aspects of their environment. It’s the world’s first patient-centered voice assistant program designed for hospitals.

The new project is just the latest example of Cedars-Sinai’s attempt to integrate the latest in technology into their expansive system. Previous, the MyChart Bedside app and Cedars-Sinai’s iPad project have been integrated into patient care, all with the purpose of modernizing communication between the two main pieces of the healthcare puzzle—caregivers and patients. For example, over 250 tablets are equipped with the MyChart Bedside app, allowing hospitalized patients easy access to their medical records, lab results—even the names and faces of their care team.

The Aiva project sees patient rooms equipped with Amazon Echos and empowers each patient to control certain aspects of their environment with the sound of their voice. For example, a patient can use his or her voice to turn the room’s television on or off, and can even change the channel with commands such as “Alexa, change the channel to ESPN.”

“Whereas previously nurses were frequently asked to help with the in-room television, Alexa does that job for us, allowing nurses to focus on providing the highest level of patient care,” said Golda Morales, assistant nurse manager of General Surgery at Cedars-Sinai Health System.

Of course, more serious or urgent requests require the assistance of a caregiver, and Aiva is ready and waiting to help. If a patient needs assistance getting to the restroom, he or she informs Alexa through a voice command. The request is routed directly to the mobile phone or the appropriate caregiver—a nurse, clinical partner, manager, or administrator. A request for medication, for example, goes to the nurse on duty, while the aforementioned bathroom request is routed to a clinical partner.

But if any request is not answered in a timely manner, Aiva has the ability to send it up the chain of command.

While the ability to control the environment of their hospital room is a welcome change to patients, most of them are still counting the days until their release, where they can return to the outside world and resume their normal activities. The Aiva platform also allows patients to feel connected to the outside world. Standard features such as playing music, reciting the weather reports, reporting sports scores or playing games are also available on the platform.

Patients seem pleased with the early results, reporting that they’ve used the platform effectively or even held conversations with the voice-equipped device.

“Patients young and old are now used to voice-activated devices in their homes,” said Peachy Hain, Cedars-Sinai’s executive director of Medical and Surgical Services and one of the strongest proponents of bringing the Aiva platform within the walls of Cedars-Sinai. “In the hospital, patients have little to distract them from pain or loneliness.”

Aiva participated in the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator back in 2017. The Accelerator is a program that endeavors to transform and develop technology related to healthcare by aiding entrepreneurs in bringing their new, innovative products to market. The three-month program is based in Los Angeles and provides companies with $100,000 in funding, along with mentorship from more than 300 leading clinicians and executives, access to Cedars-Sinai Health System, and exposure to a broad network of similar entrepreneurs or investors. The program, piloted in 2015, the Accelerator has helped dozens of companies transform their approaches to healthcare delivery and patient care.

For more information on Cedars-Sinai’s Accelerator program, visit https://csaccelerator.com/program.

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