Keeping Up with Amazon Alexa’s Healthcare Potential
When it first launched in mid-2014, the Amazon Echo looked like nothing more than what many thought it initially was – a voice-enabled wireless speaker that could offer up information via the company’s proprietary Alexa voice assistant technology. Whether it was traffic conditions, weather forecasts, or trivia questions, the Echo at first seemed capable of helpful but extremely basic tasks.
As consumers began to dig into its features and Amazon opened up the Echo’s platform to developers, new capabilities began to emerge, many of which caught the eye of those with a keen interest in the role consumer-facing technologies can play in healthcare.
Straight from the Patient’s Mouth
As with many technologies today, (wearables being a prime example), consumers soon began using Alexa as a personal healthcare assistant. Julie McGovern, CEO of practice management consulting firm Practice Wise, was quick to recognize the value its features could offer in helping her care for her ailing mother. “Alexa has made life easier for my mother on a daily basis,” she says. “Besides medication reminders, which we set as timed alerts, she uses Alexa to add items to her shopping list, get news and weather updates, listen to music and audio books, and amuse herself by having Alexa tell her jokes.”
McGovern has her eyes – and those of her mother’s providers – peeled for new Echo aging-in-place features. She’s especially excited about a new interactive medication management feature that will notify designated family members and caregivers if her mother doesn’t acknowledge to Alexa that she has taken her meds after a certain number of attempts.
From Contest to Market
McGovern and her mother may soon be able to take advantage of just such a feature from DaVincian Healthcare, the Overall Champion of the PYMNTS.com & Amazon Alexa Challenge held earlier this summer. The Austin, TX-based startup created DaVincianRx for the competition, an “interactive prescription, communication, and coordination companion” designed to improve medication adherence while keeping family caregivers in the loop.
The prototype, which took six weeks to create, was developed with the end goal of helping patients become more active in their own care and staying on track with medication plans. “When we combine prescription abandonment and non-adherence costs,” explains DaVincian Healthcare Chief Medical Officer Meredith Porter, MD, “they are staggering. Estimates range around $300 billion every year. Yet even more concerning than the wasted medical costs are the clinical costs – worsening medical conditions, unnecessary appointments and hospitalizations, and poor health outcomes, including death. Out team focused on leveraging Amazon’s Alexa to find a real solution to address this problem, keeping in mind the importance of closed-loop communication between the patient, provider, and family.”
Porter adds that Alexa-enabled tool, which the company plans to roll out through the Amazon ecosystem, is perfectly suited for aging-in-place patients like McGovern’s mother. She also believes that it will do well, “especially with those who feel overwhelmed or isolated when it comes to their health management. Our skills help people stay on track with knowing why and when they should be taking medications; reminding them about new prescriptions or needed refills; and tracking adherence to offer the critical closed-loop connectivity to family members and health teams.”
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