IONIA Healthcare Consulting
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Thoughts and writings from the world of Ionia

Alexa Everywhere: Big changes are coming to healthcare

If you haven't heard of Alexa yet, you're going to very soon. The tool is brought to the digital stage by Amazon in the form of dot, echo, and tap, amongst other tools. Alexa is the cloud-based voice service powering these tools, a new category of device designed for interacting with the human voice. Amazon, through AWS Lambda, offers a collection of self-service APIs, tools, documentation and code samples making fast and easy work of creating voice-driven capabilities for Alexa and her devices (these are known as 'skills').

Through Amazon and AWS, Alexa voice interactions executes codes and automatically manages the computing resources. Interestingly, no prior experience with speech recognition or natural language understanding is required in order to create interactive skills. Amazon's tools and product in the background works fluidly to hear, understand, and process the voice interactions.For IONIA LLC, we intend to fully integrate and collaboratively produce solutions using Alexa with our clients, current and future.

For healthcare, Alexa is the harbinger of change...

Five important points to consider regarding Alexa: 

1. Alexa adds a new ocean of patient information we haven’t had before (e.g., audio and interactivity to commands and questions)

2. Alexa offers us new, iterative engagement with patients and providers we can record as query-able data

3. Data gathering before now hasn't been terribly engaging to the patient, interoperable or voice enabled; now it is

4. With shortages of providers entering medicine, increased demand for healthcare services, increased penalties as a function of chronic condition mismanagement, we need a non-human interaction to help keep patients out of the hospital. Yet, we need care for these patients without heavy overhead and cost

5. Alexa tools shine in this current climate, and with it, the need to utilize behavioral economics to persuade and influence patient behavior, maybe even habituating it for the better

Alexa effortlessly brings useful information to the patient, not more...

Alexa influences patients to take action through the following principles: 

1. Alexa's patients don't do calculations. Alexa does the CALCULATIONS for patients which could include medication dosing, scheduling appointments on calendars, BMI, blood glucose, etc. 

2. Alexa has the capability to translate information to personal OBJECTIVES for the patient including costs of medications, impacts of meeting prescribed goals of compliance, clinical impacts of care, etc. 

3. Alexa can provide RELATIVE comparisons for patients regarding daily goals of care, number of visits to specialists or generalists, self-care relative to other patients with similar illnesses or age, etc. 

4. Alexa can also EXPAND important outcomes for patients interacting with her like the costs of care over time, progress they have made with managing a chronic illness like diabetes, or the impact of smoking cessation or weight loss

It's important to realize, the above principles bring useful information for the patient and about the patient, not just more information. Humans are cognitive misers, the more we can offer a patient for the least amount of their effort ,the more likely patients can manage themselves successfully in our current environment of provider shortage and regulatory demand. 

At IONIA LLC, we want to make a difference that matters. Currently, we are in the process of developing useful, interactive tools utilizing #VoiceFirst tools for optimizing patient care in the facility and at home. Collaborating with IONIA LLC to offer iterative patient communication through care assistants using #voicefirst is not only cutting edge, but can drastically change patient care dynamics without increased overhead. We would love to produce a solution in conjunction with you; reach out to us here

Below is a summation of potential uses and current uses for Alexa in the healthcare space presented at the annual Alexa conference held in Chattanooga, TN

Matthew Cybulsky