The U.S. medical industry is always going to be one of the most complicated industries to figure out. There are so many legislative, financial, and logistical roadblocks that it’s impressive that we’ve even made it this far. Luckily, thanks to some innovative technology, improvements are finally being made within the healthcare sector. That includes helping consumers find medical care near them during medical emergencies.
Amazon Alexa can do a lot for users, but it can now help someone determine which healthcare facility to visit during a medical emergency. While you probably shouldn’t ask Alexa for help instead of calling 911, this digital personal assistant can help patients identify the most convenient medical care in the area for their particular non-life threatening injury or illness.
It’s estimated that 3 million patients visit various urgent care facilities each week across the United States. These visitors can either get lucky and be seen right away or have to wait for dozens of other patients before they can get medical assistance.
According to Hospitals and Health Networks, asking Alexa “What’s the shortest urgent care wait time?” is a viable option for high-tech patients in need of fast medical care.
“We have a strong commitment to transparency,” said Emily Kagan Trenchard, associate vice president of digital and innovation strategy at Northwell Health. “Whenever we can demystify the health care process for our patients, we do that to make it easier for them to partner with us as we provide their care.”
Northwell began posting wait times for its emergency medical departments in 2014, but is now focusing on reaching patients with Alexa-enabled devices in their home or cars, potentially on the way to seek medical attention.
“Letting people know which urgent care centers and EDs are busy helps them make the best decisions on where to go for care,” Trenchard added.
It’s important to note, however, that the best way to get 100% accuracy during a medical emergency is to actually call any hospital or urgent care facility and find out exactly how long a wait will be or whether or not any accommodations can be made for any specific situations.
“I can envision a world where doctors and nurses don’t have to do chart entry with their backs turned to patients,” Trenchard said. “I think voice is going to be the way that we control more and more interfaces.”
The urgent care industry isn’t the only one trying to take advantage of the rise of personal assistants like Siri or Alexa. With smartphones approaching near 100% market penetration, these services are now ubiquitous.
It’s also worth noting that according to a 2015 report from the Urgent Care Association of America, a staggering 92% of urgent care centers had wait times of 30 minutes or less that year.
But no matter how reliant a person becomes on asking for help from Siri or Alexa, these devices should never be used as a replacement for calling 911 in a true health emergency.