Innovative Project Tests Alexa at NHRMC

February 27, 2018
Amazon echo post 2

The Information Services team partnered with Nursing to pilot the use of Amazon Echos in patient rooms.

And this innovative approach to using a consumer-focused technology saw some early wins at NHRMC.

As part of a 90-day pilot, Echos were mounted to the walls in 25 rooms on the second floor of NHRMC. The hands-free speakers, which feature the computerized personal assistant Alexa, are controlled by voice.

Patients enjoyed playing music and soothing sounds such as waterfalls and waves to block out noise. Games, including trivia, and information on sports and weather were also popular functions. The devices were customized with a TV guide to local channels and dining options at NHRMC.

“I think we’ve proven that the Echo-based system can make a very good and inexpensive patient entertainment and patient engagement system,” said John Tuman, NHRMC’s chief technology officer, who proposed the initiative.

As part of the pilot project, an intern would visit rooms and explain the device to patients. Some thought it was a bug zapper or an air freshener.

“We were very happy to see that a lot of the folks who were older were comfortable with the device,” Tuman said. “They were very happy with the music. They found you didn’t have to know the technology, you could just talk to the device.”

Erin Escarsega, the manager of NHRMC’s Adult Inpatient Surgical Unit, said the music helped patients be more comfortable after surgery.

“It was almost like music therapy in the room that they had complete control of,” Escarsega said. “It helps a lot during their healing process.”

Some patients played Frank Sinatra, others classic rock or country music. Staff members struck up conversations about the music or found families singing together. Songs had a calming effect on agitated patients.

“It just changed the mood and changed the atmosphere of the room,” Escarsega said.

Although the testing phase has ended, some Echo devices are in place in the ICU during renovations to help block out any noise.

Tuman said some technical details would need to be ironed out with Amazon before deploying the technology on a larger scale, but acknowledged a lot of interest around the possibility.

He will talk about NHRMC’s experience with Echo at upcoming Epic and Amazon conferences.

Mary Ellen Bonczek, NHRMC’s senior vice president and chief nurse executive, hailed the innovative work as a great success.

“The availability of music and books was amazingly popular,” Bonczek said. “Our nurses were able to add this to their plans of care and help patients cope and relax.”

“This is a great example of thinking differently and trying new things,” said John Gizdic, NHRMC’s president and CEO. “It’s what I want to challenge us all to do as we move forward. Innovation is a key to our future success.”