‘Ask Alexa’ if you’re sick, says the NHS

The latest in the NHS’ ‘digital first’ effort in the Long Term Plan is to add Amazon Alexa’s voice search capability to the NHS’ online advice service. Using Amazon’s search algorithm, UK users will be able to ask Alexa about their scratchy throat, sneezing, flu symptoms, or headache with information sourced from the NHS website. In the announcement, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Matt Hancock said that “We want to empower every patient to take better control of their healthcare and technology like this is a great example of how people can access reliable, world-leading NHS advice from the comfort of their home, reducing the pressure on our hardworking GPs and pharmacists.” 50 million GP consultations each year are estimated to be unnecessary; the NHS is actively campaigning for patient awareness on self-care to reduce the patient load on practices (GP). NHSX is also planning of making more NHS services available to all patients through digital technology. 

Physicians have expressed concern that what seems to be a minor symptom could be the start of something big, like an underlying illness. For instance, heart rate monitors which are present in smartwatches and gym equipment have driven many to their doctor because of normal heart rate fluctuations, but that visit could be also picking up the early symptoms of atrial fibrillation.

The Alexa voice assistant adoption by the NHS makes search information more accessible for those with limited mobility or sight, which can help them feel more connected and enhance safety. It also assumes that internet is both available, affordable, and understandable by these users.

This Editor wonders if Alexa will have an emergency feature which calls for assistance or to a GP if the user indicates a worsening condition or is in distress. Voice recognition, as Readers know, is imperfect; Alexa may be puzzled by regional accents, phrasing, or speech impediments.

Current estimates on voice search fluctuate. The oft-repeated ’50 percent by 2020′ assumes an accuracy in digital voice recognition and Alexa/Echo/Android/Siri usage and sales that at this stage are simply not there. An excellent discussion of the voice search market that cuts through the hyped-up predictions is by Rebecca Sentance on the eConsultancy website.

More on NHS and Alexa: Telegraph, Wired UK

Themes and trends at Aging2.0 OPTIMIZE 2017

Aging2.0 OPTIMIZE, in San Francisco on Tuesday and Wednesday 14-15 November, annually attracts the top thinkers and doers in innovation and aging services. It brings together academia, designers, developers, investors, and senior care executives from all over the world to rethink the aging experience in both immediately practical and long-term visionary ways.

Looking at OPTIMIZE’s agenda, there are major themes that are on point for major industry trends.

Reinventing aging with an AI twist

What will aging be like during the next decades of the 21st Century? What must be done to support quality of life, active lives, and more independence? From nursing homes with more home-like environments (Green House Project) to Bill Thomas’ latest project–‘tiny houses’ that support independent living (Minkas)—there are many developments which will affect the perception and reality of aging.

Designers like Yves Béhar of fuseproject are rethinking home design as a continuum that supports all ages and abilities in what they want and need. Beyond physical design, these new homes are powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technology that support wellness, engagement, and safety. Advances that are already here include voice-activated devices such as Amazon Alexa, virtual reality (VR), and IoT-enabled remote care (telehealth and telecare).

For attendees at Aging2.0, there will be substantial discussion on AI’s impact and implications, highlighted at Tuesday afternoon’s general session ‘AI-ging Into the Future’ and in Wednesday’s AI/IoT-related breakouts. AI is powering breakthroughs in social robotics and predictive health, the latter using sensor-based ADL and vital signs information for wellness, fall prevention, and dementia care. Some companies part of this conversation are CarePredict, EarlySense, SafelyYou, and Intuition Robotics.

Thriving, not surviving

Thriving in later age, not simply ‘aging in place’ or compensating for the loss of ability, must engage the community, the individual, and providers. There’s new interest in addressing interrelated social factors such as isolation, life purpose, food, healthcare quality, safety, and transportation. Business models and connected living technologies can combine to redesign post-acute care for better recovery, to prevent unnecessary readmissions, and provide more proactive care for chronic diseases as well as support wellness.

In this area, OPTIMIZE has many sessions on cities and localities reorganizing to support older adults in social determinants of health, transportation innovations, and wearables for passive communications between the older person and caregivers/providers. Some organizations and companies contributing to the conversation are grandPad, Village to Village Network, Lyft, and Milken Institute.

Technology and best practices positively affect the bottom line

How can senior housing and communities put innovation into action today? How can developers make it easier for them to adopt innovation? Innovations that ‘activate’ staff and caregivers create a multiplier for a positive effect on care. Successful rollouts create a positive impact on both the operations and financial health of senior living communities.

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Toyota’s $14 million bet on Intuition Robotics’ social companion robot (JP/IL/US)

Social companion robots for older adults and the disabled are hot again. Tel Aviv and now San Francisco-based Intuition Robotics is enjoying a $14 million second Series A investment from Toyota Research Institute (TRI) for the ElliQ ‘active aging companion’. The ElliQ desktop robot is tethered to a proprietary tablet to connect an older adult with the outside world via video chat, using machine learning about the person to recommend activities, and assist with appointments, medication reminders, music, wellness, and environmental monitoring. ElliQ is still in pre-release. The $14 million is being put to immediate use in initial testing with users in the Bay Area, and Intuition is ramping up with a team there. 

TRI is based in Los Altos CA and is wholly owned by Toyota North America. Earlier seed and Series A investments totaling $8 million were made by iRobot, Terra Venture Partners, Bloomberg Beta and ManivMobility. This is the second older adult-targeted robotics news in as many weeks, with the more fully-featured and ‘humanoid’ KOMPAÏ in France going the crowdfunding route (as Intuition did early on) for €250,000 to fund the next generation [TTA 5 July]. After viewing the video below, it seems to this Editor that a lot of the interactive voice command technology has been overtaken by assistants already in market like Siri, Amazon Alexa, and Google Home. TechCrunch, Home Health Care News

 

HIMSS17 dispatches: Mayo maps neonate telemedicine, Amwell-Samsung, Samsung-T-Mobile

Mayo maps out an enterprise telehealth (telemedicine) support structure. Here’s how the Mayo Clinic deployed neonatology remote telemedicine to their sites in Minnesota, Arizona, and Florida. There’s plenty of flow charts and summary points in this presentation deck around team building, staffing consistently and reporting that improves processes. Hat tip to our HIMSS correspondent on the scene, Bill Oravecz of Stone Health Innovations. Update: If you are using Chrome, you may have difficulty downloading session handouts from the HIMSS17 website Schedule pages. Try another browser. If you are interested, you may be able to obtain through contacting the two session presenters, Susan Kapraun and Jenna A. Beck, MHA, directly.

American Well and Samsung are partnering on integrating care delivery. Their joint release is low on details, but towards the end there’s an indication that American Well, its partners, and other providers and payers will be able to offer their services to Samsung customers. Other reports (Healthcare Dive) indicate the partnership is destined to enhance Amwell’s Exchange platform between payers and providers. Partners listed are Cleveland Clinic, New York-Presbyterian Medical Center and Anthem (undoubtedly resting after sparring with Cigna). Also Healthcare IT News.

Separately, Samsung also announced a partnership with T-Mobile for developing IoT in the senior care space. This would pair Samsung’s ARTIK Cloud with T-Mobile’s cellular network for Breezie, a social engagement for seniors interface built on a Samsung tablet which has apps and connects to various peripherals for post-acute care and daily living. It sounds interesting, but once again the release hampers the reporter by being as clear as mud in what it’s all about. See if you can decipher this: ARTIK Cloud permits “Amazon Alexa, Samsung SmartThings, iHealth Feel Wireless Blood Pressure Monitor and the Pulse Oximeter – to intelligently communicate with each other.” “Each Breezie interface has more than 40 preconfigured accessibility settings and sensor driven analytics to adjust for different levels of digital literacy, as well as physical and cognitive ability.” The Breezie website is far more revealing. Healthcare Dive also takes a whack at it towards the end of the above article.