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The New York Times: Can Medical Alexas Make Us Healthier?

The New York Times On Tech newsletter, the newspaper’s guide to how technology is transforming our lives and the world, turned to Darren Dworkin, senior vice president of Enterprise Information Services and Chief Information officer at Cedars-Sinai, for help answering this question: Are voice recognition technologies like Alexa helpful in medicine or are they hogwash?

Most Cedars-Sinai hospital rooms are outfitted with an Alexa-powered platform known as Aiva which, Dworkin explains in the article, is primarily used for hands-free interactions between nurses and patients. A nurse, for instance, could ask the device to show a patient a video on preventing dangerous falls. Patients can also use the devices to access standard Alexa features, such as playing music, or listening to news reports or sports. Aiva was partially developed and tested as part of the Cedars-Sinai Accelerator in 2017.

The devices also have potential, Dworkin told journalist Shira Ovide, to automate insurance authorization for medical treatments, send tailored text messages to patients, and handle other administrative tasks. The idea is to free physicians to spend more time treating patients, Dworkin said.

While these administrative uses of technology aren’t a “wow factor” for many, Dworkin contends they promise a huge cost savings in the healthcare setting. “Not everything has to be state of the art,” Dworkin told Ovide. “Don’t let the simple stuff pass you by.”

The article's bottom line: Technology employing voice recognition and artificial intelligence have the potential to reduce healthcare costs and improve quality, but are not a cure-all.

Click here to read the complete issue of The New York Times On Tech newsletter.