Using Amazon Alexa in healthcare: How a BCIT Computing student’s app is changing nursing classrooms

We’re at the frontier of amazing tech growth in healthcare, and BCIT faculty and students are working together across disciplines on prototypes for this new era.

Computer Systems Technology (CST) student Michelle Wan has recently received national attention for her Amazon Alexa app. The app brings voice assistance to a health care setting, and was developed after BCIT Nursing faculty proposed the interdisciplinary innovation.

Michelle and BCIT Specialty Nursing faculty Rob Kruger presented at the Canadian Association of Critical Care Nurses’ Dynamics of Critical Care Conference 2018 in Calgary last month. They showed how Alexa can help provide blood test results and diagnostic reports to a nurse working hands free.

App supports healthcare staff and helps improve patient care

Currently in use in the BCIT Specialty Nursing simulation lab, the team believes that voice assistance and nurses working side by side will increase efficiency and help ease workload.

“It feels amazing to apply what I’ve learned to such an important project,” reports Michelle. “I just feel happy knowing that this Alexa skill will help nursing students with their lab simulations.”

“If we can support nurses at the bedside through artificial intelligence and voice interactions, it would allow them to interact more with the patients,” explains Rob.

Potential for healthcare efficiency gains with AI

Due to the significant number of human errors in the sector, Rob also points out that AI can potentially make the health care industry a lot safer. In the meantime, the app is only being used in the teaching environment, as security and privacy are issues when technology is applied to real patient cases.

Nonetheless, the potential for health care enhancements is significant, with Rob predicting that AI will soon be helping read x-rays, adjusting medications, and diagnosing illness.

Wide-ranging interest

Rob and Michelle have presented at Amazon Web Services’ Initiate event in Vancouver, BCIT’s Staff Professional Development Day, to CTV news (clip at 11:35), and Michelle is off to Halifax later this fall to show her project to others at the Canadian Celebration of Women in Computing.

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