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What Alexa Won’t Tell

Remember the ads that started with a plea: “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up?”  That is so twentieth century.  Today, it is Alexa, please turn off the lights in the living room.  Alexa, please play Guns and Roses…you get the point. Now, Alexa is making house calls for your older loved one.  This past week, Amazon rolled out new software tools that are Alexa-compatible to help people at home communicate with their providers.  Think about mom or dad now able to let their doctor know that they are able to get up and about at home following their surgery.  Or they can report that they are having very little post-op recovery pain or that the infection seems to be under control today.  That is all well and fine, others would say, but that patient feedback is strictly confidential.

The good news is that Alexa communicates with your loved one’s health care provider … just like a healthcare provider.  That is, the communications from home to hospital are HIPAA-compliant.  The software developers have built in protections so that what is communicated by way of Alexa or Siri or Amazon or Google stays confidential.  Amazon specifically is keeping tight control on who can use the platform with only six companies so far having received access.

It used to be that “telemedicine” was via phone connectedness…and then via computers, but now it is just a voice away with an in-home set of ears sharing everything with a health care provider.  Soon enough, those who cannot ambulate as easily or drive can order their prescription refills through Alexa.  Developers are also at work to develop software that can understand medical records as well as ask the right questions of patients at home to help keep medical status current for the humans at the clinic who wish to check up on patients in their homes.

There is more:

  • Cigna has a system available to its large national clients so that they can better manage their health and wellness goals;
  • Express Scripts allows for prescription renewal as well as tracking progress as the pills get delivered home.
  • Another health system enables a home device to enable residents to identify the nearest provider with appointment availability when needs arises.
  • Another digital health company interacts with people in their homes to manage chronic conditions like diabetes.

I cannot help but imagine Alexa helping that diabetic patient at home by monitoring their cookie and ice cream purchases…maybe tech gone too far?

Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.


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