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Cedars-Sinai debuts Alexa in hospital rooms to improve care

Hospitalized patients in some rooms at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles now have the option of using an Alexa platform named Aiva.

Having the device in hospital rooms allows patients to make hands-free requests for medications, help using the restroom, their favorite music, television programming, information about what’s on the menu and more.

Nurses say they like having Alexa in hospital rooms, and so do patients.

Aiva, a patient-centered voice assistant platform for hospitals, includes Amazon Echo devices that are placed in patient rooms. Much like consumers would ask Alexa to do things in their homes, patients ask the device for help and assistance in the hospital.

Cedars-Sinai started the smart hospital room pilot with Alexa devices in 14 patient rooms and recently expanded the program to 108 rooms, according to Mary Reyes-Gonzales, MSN, RN-BC, associate director of nursing at the medical center.

From left are Daniela Sassoon, MSN, RN-BC; Mary Reyes-Gonzales, MSN, RN-BC; and Ruslan Marder, BSN, CMS-RN.

From left are Daniela Sassoon, MSN, RN-BC; Mary Reyes-Gonzales, MSN, RN-BC; and Ruslan Marder, BSN, CMS-RN.

Alexa in hospital rooms maintains patient privacy

“It is not just like adding an Alexa device into the room,” Gonzales said. “It actually works through the Aiva program, a company that worked with Google on configuration to make sure this is something we can use. It works with our devices, like our call-light system.”

And having Alexa in hospital rooms is HIPAA compliant.

“There’s nothing stored on it that has patient information,” Gonzales said.

The hospital is gathering data, including if and how patients use it and if it helps nurses, to determine whether it will offer Alexa in rooms hospital-wide.

Patients simply tell Alexa what they need. If it’s a request to play a type of music, get an update on the weather, watch something specific on TV, etc., Alexa handles the task.

If it’s a request for care, Alexa routes that directly to a pocket phone of a nurse, nursing assistant, administrator or the kitchen, if it has to do with food service.

“A pain medicine request would be routed to a registered nurse, for example, while a bathroom request would be routed to a clinical partner,” according to a Cedars-Sinai press release. “If the request is not answered in a timely manner, the Aiva platform sends it up the chain of command.”

Daniela Sassoon, MSN, RN-BC, who works on a general medical floor, said other than a rare connection error, having Alexa in hospital rooms gets her vote of approval.

“It really cuts the times for our responses because the patient is able to say, ‘Alexa, ask the nurse for pain medication,’” she said. “And then it alerts me on my phone. It bypasses the whole system and comes directly to me.”

Patients can opt not to have Alexa turned on in their rooms but few do, according to Gonzales.

“What we’ve found in the initial few months that we’ve used it is the patients who do use it are very happy with it,” Gonzales said. “What we’ve also seen is sometimes when patients are confused and they listen to music in their language or from their generation, it helps calm them down.”

Other benefits of making Alexa available to patients

With time, nurses and others are finding new uses for Alexa, according to Gonzales.

“For example, when a patient is admitted, we ask all patients to watch the fall prevention video,” she said. “In the past, patients would have to turn on the TV, find the channel, look for the program, and then play it. In this case, they’re able to say ‘Alexa, turn on the TV. Alexa, play the fall prevention video.’”

Ruslan Marder, BSN, CMS-RN, an assistant nurse manager on one of the hospital’s medical units, said it is relatively easy to educate patients about how to use the technology. Sometimes nurses or nursing assistants do the educating.

Volunteers or secretaries also go around to patient rooms each day to point out features of the technology or help patients use it.

“We have large three-dimensional cards on patient tables that remind patients that they have Alexa in the room,” he said.

Even intensive care unit and operating room staff might benefit from the technology, according to Marder. For example, ICU nurses can request help from another nurse using Alexa in hospital rooms.

“In the operating room, you can say ‘Alexa tell the technician to bring me a sterile set,’” Marder said.

The Aiva platform is evolving, according to Gonzales, including looking to add more languages.

Alexa isn’t the only smart hospital room device at Cedars-Sinai. The staff also offer hospitalized patients iPads on which they can access their medical records.

While the data is still out on whether Alexa in hospital rooms improves the patient experience and saves nurses time, Ruslan said having the technology frees nurses to do what they need to do.

The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator program was one of Aiva’s first investors. Aiva has since received funding from the Google Assistant Investment Program and Amazon’s Alexa Fund.

The Cedars-Sinai Accelerator program provides funding and mentoring to help entrepreneurs bring healthcare innovation to market.


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By | 2019-04-22T20:35:24+00:00 April 19th, 2019|Categories: Nursing careers and jobs, Nursing education|6 Comments

About the Author:

Lisette Hilton
Lisette Hilton, president of Words Come Alive, has been a freelance health reporter for more than 25 years and loves her job.

6 Comments

  1. Avatar
    R Ty April 28, 2019 at 8:36 pm - Reply

    Not sure about Alexa being in patients rooms.
    HIPPA!

  2. Avatar
    Lisa, BSN April 30, 2019 at 4:08 am - Reply

    This is insane. We are now treating patients as if they’re on vacation. Oh, and of course Alexa is keeping HIPPA rules. Complete joke. This is a typical idea coming from someone who has nothing better to do.

  3. Avatar

    I disagree with the other 2 comments, first this system is only using the Alexa hardware, according to the article the software is not Amazon’s, it is Aiva which means nothing is going to Google and nothing to Amazon. The information that is entered is more than likely stored on the hospital servers, making any information that is stored no different than the storage of information in the pts electronic record. By-passing someone having to answer the call light and triage a call could save several minutes. The patient doesn’t have to touch the device decreasing risk for contamination. Have you ever looked at those call light remotes with the little speaker holes? How can you adequately clean those?
    Then there is the whole ease of the pt education, if built out I’m sure they could even have an interface document in the EMR that the video was watched. A whole library of pt Ed videos or sound tracks could be added. The system could even translate if needed for small requests. Technology isn’t going backwards might as well embrace it because you can’t fight it forever.

    I want to know where I can get a job to help with the development!

  4. Avatar
    LifeCoachRN May 4, 2019 at 3:44 am - Reply

    This is not a good idea especially as far as HIPPA as the other writer stated. There is also the privacy of staff. These devices are always listening and recording data “to improve”. They are always listening because they need to know when someone is making a request of it. I became acutely aware of this when my home alexa repeated a few sentences that my husband and I had just said as part of a normal conversation.in my home. What about conversations about diagnosis or possibilities of outcomes with patients as this device listens and collects data. Who is monitoring what happens to the data? Not a good idea.

  5. Avatar
    Karen Engell May 7, 2019 at 12:56 am - Reply

    The article states this:
    And having Alexa in hospital rooms is HIPAA compliant.

    “There’s nothing stored on it that has patient information,” Gonzales said.

    The hospital is gathering data, including if and how patients use it and if it helps nurses, to determine whether it will offer Alexa in rooms hospital-wide.
    “And having Alexa in hospital rooms is HIPAA compliant.

    “There’s nothing stored on it that has patient information,” Gonzales said.

    The hospital is gathering data, including if and how patients use it and if it helps nurses, to determine whether it will offer Alexa in rooms hospital-wide.”

    The data is retained in the hospital …so I guess all of you are saying all of your hospital employees are not HIPAA compliant???

    The requests are not going to Google or Amazon like the devices in our houses. The software is developed by AIVA and staying on your hospital servers. As for the privacy of staff, other tech like Vocera devices have been around for a while. Vocera allows handsfree communication between 2 caregivers so anyone in the vicinity can hear. That is much more of a privacy issue that this.

  6. Avatar
    Erin Anderson May 9, 2019 at 6:49 pm - Reply

    What if it was a closed “Alexa-type” system but not hooked to the outside world. It could perform like a hands-free calling. I think it’s a neat idea. I don’t know how the actual application will work out, though.

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