Star Trek fans will be familiar with a virtual Doctor, Emergency Medical Hologram Mark 1 (EHM for short), but could a healthcare system involving assessments by holograms or voice activated technology be available now?
Amazon has set up a Health and Wellness division to explore ways that voice activated technology can help improve the management of health care in the home. Alexa, already associated with planning shopping lists, playing music or controlling lighting, can integrate with devices and apps to help manage health related issues.
From helping patients with Type 2 Diabetes integrate new routines to improve their daily activities, to checking whether medication has been taken, improving patient experience in hospital and providing a ‘personal physician’ which uses advice and information from thousands of Doctors to engage with patients about their symptoms, Alexa can be linked to other programs and apps to offer alternatives for patients at home and in hospital.
No doubt Amazon are using their global reach to identify new technologies and advances that could link with Alexa to provide real benefits to patients around the world. The success of MyPreOp, the online preoperative assessment tool, suggests that this could be the next area to attract the interest of Amazon.
Imagine you are told you need an operation. You’ve been struggling with a painful knee, and your Consultant advises you to have an arthroscopy. The next step is to work out if you are healthy enough to undergo surgery, and whether there are any issues which could impact on its success. In most hospitals, this is done via a face to face meeting with a PreOperative nurse who asks you a series of questions about your health and how you live, as well as taking some tests such as blood pressure and height and weight.
MyPreOp is an online version of this review, with complex algorithms designed to thoroughly explore health conditions and provide clinicians with a clear, consistent and unbiased summary report. As the questionnaire is completed online and by the patient, it is not reliant on the availability of skilled staff and can be done in the hospital, at home or wherever the patient chooses.
At the moment, patients enter their information into a computer, tablet or phone, but just imagine how easy it would be to get these questions asked by an intelligent personal assistant such as Alexa. You could be preparing dinner whilst being asked questions about your home, your operation and your health.
By linking the program with other devices, your blood pressure is checked and your height and weight are checked. Simple blood tests could be taken in the same way as diabetes patients check their sugar levels, with a device that will identify anything of concern. Recent links to medical records held by your GP could confirm your medical history and flag any issues.
So, in future, instead of multiple trips to hospital, perhaps we will be able to sit at home, talking to our voice activated assistant, or even our own version of a hologram, to complete our assessment. With remote diagnostics, it may even be that the first time we visit the hospital is to have the operation. Think of all the saved journeys involved, how much less money would be spent on parking and how much more time would be available for other things?
So come on down Emergency Medical Hologram, beam us up to the future of preop assessment and let’s explore the ‘strange new world’ of medicine and healthcare in the 21st Century!