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Good start, long road ahead for smart tech in skilled nursing facilities

July 24, 2018
by I Advance Senior Care
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Voice technology has promise in senior care, but skilled nursing providers and residents need to keep their expectations tempered, one expert says.

When it comes to Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant, Elizabeth Mynatt, the executive director of Georgia Tech’s Institute for People and Technology, has a note of caution.

“I think the Alexa is unproven,” Mynatt told Skilled Nursing News. “But there’s a lot of excitement about it, because it kind of takes away a lot of the complexity of text and computers, and you’re just talking to something. So there’s a lot of folks building what they call skills — essentially apps for things like the Alexa — but we have a long way to go.”

For instance, the New Jewish Home in the New York City area has seen success using Amazon’s Echo devices, rolling out a pilot version of a virtual assistant program for skilled nursing residents at one of its campuses; farther westward, researchers at the University of Illinois are digging into the use of the Echo to explore how seniors use the technology to improve their overall experience with voice assistants.

And Ascension Living, the senior services arm of St. Louis-based health system Ascension, is testing out the Amazon Echo Show and Echo Dot devices in pilot programs aimed at evaluating the feasibility of voice-activated devices in senior housing, SNN’s sister site Senior Housing News reports. The programs were particularly meant to examine the devices in high-acuity settings like assisted living and skilled nursing.

One advantage of voice technology is that the learning curve for seniors is low, according to Erum Khan, the CEO of *Soundmind, which creates conversational artificial intelligence (AI) tools targeted at senior living; Soundmind partnered with the New Jewish Home for for its virtual assistant program.

That program sprang from examining the challenges of living in a skilled nursing or assisted living facility, Khan said. The program they developed, called Connect the Dots, is a web-based console to personalize voice assistants, integrate person and community calendars, access menus and care plans, and facilitate calls, and allows for easy rescheduling of events across the calendars of all the residents in the nursing home.

Read the full story at Skilled Nursing News.

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