Picture this: At every step of a patient’s trip through the hospital, a virtual assistant awaits, ready to answer questions, pull up medical records — or snap photos during surgery.
Hospital staff and patients walked through that futuristic hospital scenario one recent afternoon at a new simulation center at Boston Children’s Hospital. Fifty people came to dream up ways that Amazon’s Alexa voice-recognition software program could help in the clinic and at home.
The hospital dove into voice-assisted software last month, when it released an Alexa-based app called KidsMD that gives parents advice when their children catch a fever. Children’s “is leading the way when it comes to hands-free work in hospitals” using Alexa, an Amazon spokeswoman said.
Besides Children’s, other medical facilities are “working to bring Alexa into patient rooms, help doctors take notes, and read back charts, among other things,” the spokeswoman said, though she declined to share details.
To give visitors a sense of what’s possible, Children’s staff whipped up a few basic apps and set them up on electronic equipment in three mocked-up rooms in the simulation center — an operating room, an intensive care unit, and a child’s bedroom.
“We’re thinking about how these technologies come into play in every stage of the patient’s journey,” John Brownstein, Children’s chief innovation officer, told a crowd of clinicians, patients, and software engineers. “We’re counting on you to think about where this can go, if anywhere.”