Cedars-Sinai taps Alexa for smart hospital room pilot

February 28, 2019

Patience is not a virtue when you are a hospital patient seeking medical assistance. In fact, waiting too long for a nurse to respond after you’ve pushed the “hot button” can, in the worst cases, be the death of you.

Now, a pilot program underway in more than 100 patient rooms at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles is enabling patients to use an Alexa-powered platform known as Aiva to interact hands-free with nurses. Aiva is described as “the world’s first patient-centered voice assistant platform for hospitals.”

In the pilot project, patient rooms are equipped with Amazon Echos and patients simply tell the device what they need. For example A patient who needs assistance getting out of bed might say, “Alexa, tell my nurse I need to get up to use the restroom.”

The patient’s request is routed to the mobile phone of the appropriate caregiver—a nurse, clinical partner, manager, or administrator. A pain medicine request would be routed to a registered nurse, for example, while a bathroom request would be routed to a clinical partner. If the request is not answered in a timely manner, the Aiva platform sends it up the chain of command.

In addition, patients can use the voice-powered assistant to turn the TV off and on, and change channels, by giving verbal 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.

In addition to interaction with the patient’s healthcare team, the devices at Cedars-Sinai include standard Alexa features, allowing patients to feel more connected to the outside world. Currently, the most common request is for the device to play music, followed by content like weather, sports and games.

Abdominal surgery patient Adrienne Edwards was one of the early users of Alexa. “It rocks,” Edwards said. “I was lonely in the hospital and I said, ‘Alexa, would you be my friend?’ The device responded, ‘Of course we could be friends. You seem very nice.'”

Peachy Hain, Cedars-Sinai’s executive director of Medical and Surgical Services, was one of the driving forces behind bringing Alexa to patient rooms.

“Patients young and old are now used to voice-activated devices in their homes. Since it’s familiar to them, it helps enhance their hospital experience,” said Hain. “In the hospital, patients have little to distract them from pain or loneliness.”

Cedars-Sinai and Aiva are moving patient interaction into the 21st century, when hospital rooms will need more intelligence and convenience to accommodate changing patient needs.

“Smart rooms are all about improving satisfaction for both patients and nurses,” said Aiva CEO Sumeet Bhatia. “Cedars-Sinai and Aiva are giving patients more entertainment options, more control over their environment, and closer communication with their care team.”

The Alexa program joins innovations such as the MyChart bedside app and Cedars-Sinai’s iPad project in modernizing patient communications at Cedars-Sinai. More than 250 tablets equipped with the MyChart bedside app are now available for hospitalized patients, who can use the app to check their medical record information, including lab results, as well as the names and photos of their care team.

Research contact: groupresearch@cshs.org

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