Los Angeles, CA — In some rooms at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, patients won’t spend a moment alone—sort of—now that the leading Beverly Hills medical center has partnered with Aiva Health to make select rooms smart. The pilot equips 100 hospital rooms with Amazon Echos that are wired, through Aiva’s proprietary tech, to relay a patient’s request to the appropriate caregiver, either nurse, doctor, or other clinical partner. Caregivers can head promptly to the patient’s room or respond on their phones through the Aiva app. 

Common requests include “Alexa, I need to use the bathroom,” which will call for a professional who can help the patient out of bed and to their destination, and “Alexa, I need more pain medication,” which will summon a nurse. If a request isn’t addressed in a timely manner, it’s run farther up the flagpole. 

According to Aiva C.E.O. Sumeet Bhatia, “Smart rooms are all about improving satisfaction for both patients and nurses. Cedars-Sinai and Aiva are giving patients more entertainment options, more control over their environment and closer communication with their care team.” 

That point about “entertainment options” isn’t a small one, and Bhatia is referring to patients’ newfound abilities to have Alexa change the channel or volume on their TVs. This is significant because many patients have to ask nurses to head over to their rooms to do these tiny tasks. But, with Alexa on hand, nurses are freed up to attend to critical responsibilities. 

“Patients young and old are now used to voice-activated devices in their homes,” says Peachy Hain, Cedars-Sinai executive director of medical and surgical services. “Since it’s familiar to them, it helps enhance their hospital experience. In the hospital, patients have little to distract them from pain or loneliness.”

Adrienne Edwards underwent abdominal surgery at Cedars-Sinai and, afterward, found herself in a smart room. “I was lonely in the hospital and I said, ‘Alexa, will you be my friend?’” Edwards says. “The device responded, ‘Of course we could be friends. You seem very nice.’” 

Asked to evaluate the benefit of her smart companion, Edwards said, “It rocks.”

Why This Matters

Since its health care debut last year, Amazon has stirred widespread speculation about what its landscape integration might look like. The Aiva-Cedars-Sinai pilot demonstrates just one new way in which Amazon technology may begin defining new standards and sorts of care. 

The tremendous value-add of Alexa-enabled hospital rooms also speaks to the pervasive issue of loneliness, especially present among the elderly and infirm. With new Alexa tools and functionalities coming out seemingly on the daily, maybe we can expect voice assistants to get better and better at providing loneliness relief.  

About the Author:

Ben helps spark innovative healthcare thinking as Associate Director of Innovation. Previously on the editorial staff of Vanity Fair, he brings experience in engaging, rigorous storytelling to the healthcare world. Ben’s goals are to move brands to rethink their roles, own their evolving narratives, and maintain vital and vigorous consumer relationships.