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BayCare teams with souped-up version of Alexa to improve patient experiences

Brian Hartz

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Craig Anderson, BayCare's director of innovation. Photo courtesy of BayCare.

BayCare has partnered with Aiva Health, a Los Angeles company that pioneered a voice operating system that works with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant, to help patients quickly and easily communicate requests to the health care system’s nursing staff. 

“Alexa, improve my hospital food!” might not get a response, but according to Craig Anderson, BayCare’s director of innovation, many other requests can be accommodated and routed to the appropriate care worker. By addressing an Alexa smart speaker device in his or her room, a patient can ask, hands-free, for snacks and water, blankets and any number of other creature comforts. The device can also change TV channels and adjust TV volume levels.

BayCare, the release states, has rolled out Aiva technology at just one facility so far — St. Joseph’s Hospital-North in Lutz — but plans to implement it in 2,500 patient rooms across its 14-hospital system by the end of 2021. In addition to being the equivalent of a hands-free call button, the devices can also update patients on the weather, deliver news reports and sports scores and play music. Eventually, Anderson says, they will be upgraded to control room lighting and temperature.

“The patient can simply ask Alexa for things they need like a blanket or a glass of water,” Anderson states in a news release. “Aiva interprets all those requests and sends it to the right person. It is a seamless connection between the patient and their care team.”

Patient entertainment and comfort, however, are just one part of the Aiva value proposition. 

“There’s two sides to what it’s used for,” Anderson says. “Number one, certainly, is the clinical use. This is a special type of voice assistant. I think it’s really important to stress that it’s secure. It’s not just an Alexa device. There’s an entire backend platform, which is Aiva.” 

BayCare, Anderson says, spent nearly two years testing and vetting Aiva in a pilot program at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa to make sure the system would not only deliver patient requests, but also prioritize them. Thanks to Aiva Health’s proprietary software, Alexa is able to make sure that skilled nurses receive urgent requests, like a call for pain medication, while patient care technicians receive lower-priority tasks. Requests are routed to special iPhones, carried by the patient care team, that are owned and managed by BayCare. 

“The request lands with the right person, but [Aiva] also maintains the right priority so that a request for socks doesn’t get in the way of a request for anything more important,” Anderson says. “The nurse knows as soon as he walks in the room, or even before he walks in the room, what the patient needs.” 

Anderson says BayCare chose Aiva Health because of the firm’s track record of working with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, a prestigious health care system based in Los Angeles, and the fact that it has attracted investment from both Amazon and Google. “It’s rather rare, in the tech space, to see two highly competitive groups like Amazon and Google both invest in a company and also allow their solution to run on both platforms.” 

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