Amazon brings Alexa devices to hospitals, assisted living

A patient in a hospital bed looks at Amazon's Alexa device. A patient in a hospital bed looks at Amazon's Alexa device.

Amazon is striking partnerships with hospitals and senior living communities to bring its Alexa devices into patients’ rooms. Photo credit: Amazon

Amazon is looking to bring its Alexa devices into more patients’ rooms, both in hospitals and assisted living facilities. The company has struck partnerships with several large healthcare companies, including Cedars-Sinai, Boston Children’s Hospital and Atria Senior Living.

Amazon is touting the devices as an easy way for patients to communicate with staff. For example, nurses can “drop in” through the device to check on a patient, or senior living residents can call in for support.

“One of the things we like about Alexa voice technology is that it lets our care team save steps while keeping them closer to our patients,” Baycare Director of Innovation Craig Anderson said in a blog post. “The patient can simply ask Alexa for things they need like a blanket or a glass of water. Alexa interprets all those requests and sends it to the right person.”

Amazon began piloting this concept with Cedars-Sinai in 2019, starting with putting the devices in 100 hospital rooms. During the initial months of the Covid-19 pandemic, being able to communicate with patients without having to enter their rooms became more urgent as hospitals and nursing homes faced shortages of protective equipment.

Going forward, Amazon is looking to build more healthcare-specific features, such as medication tracking.

For example, Boston Children’s Hospital, which is currently using the devices for patient entertainment and to address frequently-asked questions, is working on more ways to use the voice technology.

“Our patients will soon be able to express their needs for things like pain management support – ‘Alexa, tell my nurse I’m in pain,’ or general comfort – ‘Alexa, tell my nurse I need a pillow,’” Timothy Driscoll, director of technology strategy at Boston Children’s said in a blog post. “Using AI for the interpretation of patient intent will enable the direction of messages to the appropriate resource using real-time smart routing to existing hospital communication systems. Ultimately this will reduce the number of steps taken to understand and address patient needs.”

For nursing homes, residents can call friends and family through the device, and make video calls. They can also get information about the day’s menu, or events in their community. Some of Amazon’s nursing home users include national chain Atria Senior Living and Sacramento-based Eskaton.

Both Amazon’s features for hospitals and nursing homes are part of its Alexa Smart Properties segment, which includes features for commercial users, including hotels and office buildings.

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