Bringing Voice Services to the Patient Bedside

Visitors to Boston Children’s Hospital might notice a familiar accessory on some ICU charge nurse stations and mobile computer carts: Alexa-enabled Amazon devices. The institution has pioneered work with the voice service, including developing the first health skill on the device.

The KidsMD Alexa skill was created to give parents a resource and decision-support tool for questions related to their child’s fever or other symptoms. Matt Murphy, innovation lead at Boston Children’s Hospital Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator, described the effort as a collaboration between technologists—software developers and machine learning experts—and clinicians.

“Parents ask a question, it calls our system, and our system responds back with data and symptom information that is read off to the parent,” Murphy explained.

KidsMD is just the start of the hospital’s interest in voice platforms. Murphy’s team is developing skills with the Alexa voice service for use inside the hospital, too. “The nice thing is that it’s such a flexible platform that we’re doing a lot of work independently within the enterprise,” Murphy said. “Alexa, for us, is more about leveraging this initial platform as a way to experiment with voice more broadly in the hospital setting.”

Boston Children’s is including a variety of stakeholders in the process of developing these applications. Patients, parents, social works, clinicians, and others were part of a hackathon in late 2016 to develop voice service skills for the hospital environment. One such skill was intended to assist parents who care for children with peripherally inserted central catheter (PICC) lines, instructing them in each step of cleaning the PICC line, changing medications, and addressing simple problems at home.

By Marie Thibault | MD&DI


About Peter Coffaro 602 Articles
A growth-driven and strategic executive, Peter Coffaro commands more than 20 years of progressive management success within the medical device industry. As a District Sales Manager for Stryker Orthopaedics, Peter was responsible for managing and directing a regional sales force to achieve sales and profit goals within the Rocky Mountain region. Previously, he was the Director of Sales & Marketing for Amp Orthopedics. In this role, Peter was responsible for planning, developing, and leading all sales and marketing initiatives. Peter is a former orthopedic distributor in the Pacific Northwest. He has also worked with DePuy Orthopaedics as well as Zimmer, and held positions in sales, sales training, and sales management. Peter has an extensive background in organizational development, business development, sales management, negotiating and P&L management. Peter holds a B.S. degree in Biology from Northern Illinois University.

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