Amazon is putting Alexa next to hospital beds throughout the US. It says it will boost productivity because staff can go into patients' rooms less.

·3 min read
Registered nurse Yeni Sandoval manages medication for a Covid-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center in Tarzana, California on January 3, 2021.
A nurse manages medication for a Covid-19 patient in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in California on January 3, 2021. APU GOMES/AFP/Getty Images
  • Amazon says it will equip hospitals with Alexa - its next step into the US health system.

  • Hospitals including Boston Children's Hospital and Houston Methodist would soon use the tech, it said.

  • Patients can use Alexa to talk to health staff and control devices in their room, Amazon said.

Amazon's next step into the US health system is equipping hospitals with Alexa, its virtual assistant.

Amazon said Monday that hospitals including Boston Children's Hospital, Cedars-Sinai in California, BayCare in Florida, and Houston Methodist would soon use Alexa-enabled devices, which include its Amazon Echo speaker, to help patients communicate with health staff and control devices in their room.

Amazon said that using Alexa-enabled devices in healthcare could mean staff don't need to enter patients' rooms unnecessarily. "This enables hospitals to increase productivity, conserve medical supplies and protective equipment, such as masks, gloves, and gowns, and free up staff time to provide more personalized care," it said.

The hospitals will use Amazon's Alexa Smart Properties system from next month, Amazon said, adding that healthcare providers can also enable HIPAA-compliant features such as medication tracking for the devices.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) legally protects medical records and other personal health information in the US.

Amazon said Monday that some senior living homes would also start using Alexa, including some run by the providers Atria and Eskaton. The system is already used in hotels and offices.

The tech giant has already edged its way into US healthcare with its online pharmacy and new primary care business.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Amazon trialed its Alexa-enabled devices in health systems worldwide, including the US. In May 2020, it donated Echo Show devices and Fire tablets to virtually connect patients with health workers.

An Amazon spokesperson told Quartz that hospitals quickly gave feedback that the trial wasn't tailored to what patients and providers were asking for.

"Using that feedback, we created a solution tailored specifically for hospitals and solution providers with features to address those needs - like adding Drop In functionality and the ability to enable and manage HIPAA skills on devices within the property," the spokesperson said, per Quartz. The drop-in calling feature allows care givers to remotely review patients.

Peachy Hain, executive director of medical and surgical services at Cedars-Sinai, said in the press release that the technology was a "total gamechanger."

"Regardless of age or tech savviness," patients can use Alexa to "connect with their care team and stay entertained as soon as they settle in, while care providers can streamline tasks to make more time to care for those patients," she said.

Insider reported in April 2020 that an Echo Show device recorded a nursing home patient's cries for help before she died from COVID-19.

Amazon said in the press release Monday that no personal information was shared with Alexa to use the device, and voice recordings were not saved.

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