Orbita looks to empower patients with Amazon’s Alexa
Orbita looks to empower patients with Amazon Alexa
(Credit: Orbita)

Orbita looks to empower patients with Amazon’s Alexa

Orbita has created a tool that allows healthcare organizations to build voice assistants for patients in their home.

The company, which provides software solutions for connected home healthcare, said its Voice Experience Designer tool would allow healthcare to providers to build and deploy voice-powered applications for a variety of home health scenarios, such as treatment and medication adherence, caregiver coordination, pain management and patient monitoring.

The software was revealed at the Connected Health Conference in Washington, D.C. this week.

Orbita follows Amazon’s lead

The voice assistants created will be based on Amazon’s Alexa technology – the voice technology that powers the company’s smart home assistant, Amazon Echo – but will be optimized for the healthcare sector.

To give an example, Orbita said healthcare providers could create applications that allow patients to check doctor’s appointments simply by asking “When’s my next appointment?” or manage medication by saying “What meds am I supposed to take now?”

According to Bill Rogers, Orbita founder and CEO, devices like the Amazon Echo have changed how people perceive and use voice assistants. “Instead of requiring someone to speak into a smartphone, the Echo offers an array of sensitive microphones and a built-in speaker,” he said. “It’s ‘always on/always listening’ capabilities bring powerful advantages to home care needs.”

Rogers added, “We believe that voice assistant technologies delivered through connected devices like the Amazon Echo are the future of care journey management for home healthcare. Making them mainstream requires integration with existing healthcare systems and mapping the voice experiences to established care protocols. Orbita created our Voice Experience Designer to simplify the creation of voice-powered healthcare applications that are secure, robust, and fully integrated with existing systems.”

Patient empowerment

The move follows a growing trend whereby doctors are hoping to empower the patient by giving them better access to their own data. It’s a growing trend that we noticed at our Internet of Healthcare conference earlier this year, and it’s part of the reason why Commonwealth Care Alliance in Boston is partnering with Orbita.

Dr John Loughnane, chief of innovation at Commonwealth Care Alliance, said: “We are constantly looking for ways to better to serve our patients and improve their ability to maximize their wellness at home. In 2017, we will be collaborating with Orbita as recipients of a Center for Health Care Strategies Innovation Award to bring this exciting concept to reality and positively impact our patient’s everyday experience of home-based medical care.”

Beyond the consumer

In emailed comments sent exclusively to Internet of Business, Collette Johnson, director of medical, at technology consultancy Plextek noted that while voice technology was becoming increasingly important in the consumer space, there is a growing case for it in healthcare.

“In patient groups such as those who suffer from dementia and those with limited or no mobility, such technology will be transformational. In dementia patients where technology is often difficult to engage with, voice assistant technology could be helpful to assist with daily tasks as well as give independence to those who suffer from limited mobility.

“However, there are already a few issues that we must consider resolving, such as people needing to verbally communicate but not wanting to interact with their systems. There are also current issues with accents, with voice assisting technology struggling to communicate with non-Americans and often causing confusion.”

Nils Lenke, senior director, Corporate Research at Nuance Communications suggested that other industries, such as banking and aviation, have set the standard for intelligent assistants.

“We imagine that also patients will want to ‘self-help’ and access services through the comfort of their own homes and / or while using their own devices,” he said. “There are even some apps available today like TalktoDocs and Symptomchecker.

“Enabling this ability to access information and services without always requiring healthcare staff will support medical staff to focus on those that most need support and treatment – hopefully supporting a reduction in waiting times and improvements in overall patient care.

“Intelligent assistants can also assist doctors with creating patient documentation faster and automatically offer additional evidence from texts or medical databases. This will help them get to the root cause of an ailment faster and allow them to spend more time with their patients.”

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