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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. [caption id="attachment_55341" align="alignleft" width="225"]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.[/caption]

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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