Alexa Pilot Explores Benefits of Voice-Activated Home Health

“Hey, Alexa, what time should I take my medication today?”

This exchange with Amazon’s digital personal service assistant, Alexa, may soon be commonplace for older adults who wish to age in place, thanks to a pilot study conducted by Dublin, Ireland-based Accenture (NYSE: ACN), a global management consulting firm that provides services in technology, strategy and operations.

The company’s Liquid Studio in London has developed an artificial intelligence (AI) powered platform, called the Accenture Platform, that can assist with an older adult’s daily activities, learn their behaviors and preferences, as well as suggest social activities to promote their overall physical and mental well-being.

Adapting technology

The Accenture Platform was built to complement “real-world care,” according to a company video.

The program uses the self-service Amazon Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) to customize the AI that powers the program. As such, the Accenture Platform runs on the Amazon Web Services (AWS) cloud and is utilized via the Amazon Echo Show.

The Echo Show device marries Alexa’s voice-activated digital personal services with on-screen prompts, as well as other visual elements, including reading and learning materials, music, video calls, daily exercises and appointment reminders.

The pilot program was tested over a three-month period, from August to October 2017, with approximately 60 older adults in London who were at least 70 years old and lived independently.

Testing was conducted at Accenture’s London-based Liquid Studio lab to understand how users interacted with the platform, while a select 20 individuals tested the device in the home setting.

The pilot program demonstrated the pervasive role technology is playing in delivering personalized care in the home, according to Brian Kalis, managing director of digital health at Accenture.

“We’re in a state with technology where [it] now can adapt to people, versus us having to adapt to technologies in our environment,” Kalis told Home Health Care News. “It’s heavily driven by the use of artificial intelligence and voice interactions, which allows all users not having to adapt to new forms of input or dialogue—you can just use your voice.”

This aspect paves the way for users, particularly older adults, to utilize technologies that can be easy to use.

“You’re able to have a high level of satisfaction of people getting the information they need, and the connections they need—to family members and other caregivers—without having to learn sophisticated new technology,” he said.

Inside and outside connections

The Accenture Platform is activated by the user by saying the phrase “Hey, Alexa.”

It also has a “Family and Carer” portal that can be accessed via a web browser, which enables family and caregivers to check on the individual’s daily activities, including whether they have taken their medication, or if the individual has made a request for his or her family members/caregivers.

Additionally, the platform can detect deviations in normal user behavior. Users, however, ultimately have the choice of what kinds of alerts family and caregivers receive, and how frequently they receive them, according to Kalis.

“It’s very important that the whole concept of the design was putting choice in the hands of the user,” Kalis said. “It ultimately increases that simplicity and flexibility of being independent in the home, yet giving the security of those connections, both to clinicians as well as family members, as needed.”

In addition to assisting older adults with activities of daily living (ADLs), a unique aspect to the Accenture Platform is its capability of helping users find local social events—an aspect that promotes an overall healthy, active lifestyle, according to Kalis.

“Social connections have been demonstrated to have benefits, both to active lifestyles as well as the holistic aspects of well-being, whether it’s just activity or overall mental and behavioral well-being,” Kalis said.

In terms of next steps, Accenture is planning to expand the platform by adding new capabilities to the program. However, the company has no timetable of when it plans to roll out the technology to the marketplace, according to Kalis.

While the platform is still in its development stage, the prospective offering shows the power technology can play in home care settings.

“[The demonstration shows] how we can use AI as the new user interface for all populations, regardless of demographic, to personalize experiences to help people with their health and well-being,” Kalis said.

Written by Carlo Calma

Carlo Calma
Business Reporter at Aging Media Network
Carlo enjoys running and taking indoor cycling and rowing classes. He tempers his active lifestyle by indulging in Chicago's diverse food scene.