My initial impression of the Amazon Echo was that this is simply a Bluetooth speaker that looks like a portable humidifier with a little bit of artificial intelligence. The next thing I discovered is that the Echo always needs to be plugged in for it to work. But then, after playing around with it, I realized that the Amazon Echo is actually quite impressive.
The Echo introduces the handy Alexa function. The initial conversations with Alexa are very simple. You can ask about the weather, the time, sports results, or the latest news. But with time, I learned that Alexa could even read an audio book; tell me about the local businesses; and where to go for a Thai dinner.
The other benefit of Echo its accessibility and quality. It comes with a remote control or you may control it via your mobile device after downloading the Amazon echo app. The bottom part of the Echo has a 360-degree speaker that surprisingly fills the entire room with sound. Even at a distance of 9-10 feet Alexa can pick up commands.
Because of the sophisticated voice activated system, the Echo has great potential for use by patients in a healthcare setting. The main use case that I see is in the hospital’s patient room. Let’s think of a scenario where we have a 50-year-old patient in the hospital that had just gone through a surgery procedure and is expected to be in the hospital for two days. Echo can be a great device to allow personalization such as: integration to the patient’s Spotify music, control of the room temperature and blinds, the ability to order an Uber for the patient’s family, as well as many other features of a smart home. The goal will be to bring the technology of a smart home into a patient’s room to enhance the patient’s experience away from home.
From a clinical perspective, the Echo can assist the medical provider by reciting the medical education transcribed by the doctor to the patient, such as: the side effects of a prescription drug that the patient should expect for the next month after surgery. If we go back to the example of the patient who is recovering from surgery and has been prescribed drugs, the Echo can either be a replacement or an integrated device for the nurse call system where the patient can ask for pain medication through Echo. In addition, patients can also order their meals through the device if it is integrated with the dietary system in the hospital. As such, the voice-activated system would clearly be a great two-way communication tool for the patient who may not be able to move from their bed with ease.
As healthcare is moving towards the goal of creating the best patient experience possible, we have to start integrating consumer products with the strategy of providing a hotel-like experience in an inpatient room. The integration of smart room technology and voice activation communication has become an invaluable part of luxury hotels, and likewise, we must attempt to replicate that same kind of technology and convenience in hospitals. I have personally witnessed a lot of success by international hospitals incorporating the hotel experience into their culture to improve patient experience. Similarly, I believe that hospitals in the US must start to adjust our strategy in order to meet the expectation of today’s consumer-patients.
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