Calling Dr. A.I.
What if a device could give you proper health advice based on your age and weight? Amazon, the American electronic commerce and cloud computing company, has launched a new KidsMD skill that can help parents decide to call a doctor on symptoms like fever, cough, headache, rash, vomiting, sore throat, diarrhea, fatigue or shortness of breath. If you currently ask “Alexa”, the intelligent personal assistant made popular by the Amazon Echo, to assist you with music, lights, shopping lists and more, then you already have the hardware to enjoy the KidsMD application. The Boston Globe recently reported that the Boston Children’s Hospital has launched the KidsMD app and is testing uses for Echo in the operating room and intensive care unit.
Echo represents the latest example of bringing cutting edge consumer technology into both the hospital and home. Alexa could be used to remind homebound patients to take their medications. Patients who need to track their eating habits could easily use Alexa to record their food intake. Families or those living alone can use Echo to call for help in a health emergency. AstraZeneca recently announced a plan to develop an app that coaches heart attack patients. Voice technology like Alexa’s could be similarly applied and might appeal to patients with poor eyesight or limited mobility. It’s the next new thing in health tech.
In February of this year, a new integration into Echo allows hardware owners to say, “Alexa, talk to Dr. Al.” Echo connects users to HealthTap which provides 24/7 access to doctors via video, text, or voice. While this service is not intended to replace an in-person doctor’s visit, the voice assistance will help you get there. At the end of the virtual consult, if you need to see a medical practitioner, Alexa will schedule an office visit on your behalf.
This is just the beginning of Alexa’s move into health care. WebMD, which has its own app, called WebMD skill, hopes to improve the interface and add the ability to ask follow-up questions. Some time in the future, our children may be thinking how quaint it was that we used a keyboard to communicate with our computers or used our own phone to contact providers.