Can virtual assistants plug the healthcare gap?

The “virtual nurse” will see you all the time. Electronic Caregiver is launching what it claims is “the world's first virtual caregiver” at CES in January, though it’s by no means the first chat-bot to offer medical help.

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Electronic Caregiver has announced that it will unveil Addison Care, an augmented reality AI-based "virtual caregiver", at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January. The aim is to help healthcare professionals monitor people in their homes, make sure they take their medicines, and provide warnings if there are any problems developing. The system will also be available to individuals and families.

Founder and CEO Anthony Dohrmann says the main features include "health and wellness support, real-time assessment, AI-based analytics and expedited response to emergencies. Our goal is to cut costs, improve care and extend functional independence."

Addison Care is fronted by a female nurse-like chat-bot called Addison. She appears on "15-inch monitors strategically placed throughout the residence, she carries on two-way conversations, and she is programed for a user's personal needs and plans of care," says Electronic Caregiver. The company notes that only three percent of the US population can afford 'live caregiving'.

"She" resembles a video-game character, and was developed on AWS Sumerian, as reported previously on ZDNet.

Addison Care virtual nurse

Chat-bots are not new to the healthcare market. Earlier examples include Care Angel, Sense.ly, Buoy Health, and the London, UK-based Your.MD. Sense.ly's award-winning "virtual nurse" has already been used in trials in the UK's National Health Service, and it has an Ask NHS app for Android and iOS.

Electronic Caregiver extends the concept by adding "a network of wireless visual sensors, local AI-based processors, interactive tablets, Bluetooth biometric devices and emergency monitoring devices."

Electronic Caregiver's parent company, SameDay Security (SDS), was already in the monitored technology business, trading as LifeSupportMedical. The Electronic Caregiver was one of its services. Others include LaserShield security systems and TelaMed+ remote medical assistance. The company is based in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

SEE: Executive's guide to the business value of VR and AR (free ebook)

The health industry is moving towards "virtual care" because of the high cost of visiting the growing number of older people in their homes. "Virtual nurses" are not replacing home visits, they are augmenting the nurses who make regular voice calls to check up on them. 

Phoenix-based non-profit organisation G60 Trauma will start testing Addison Care with 500 patients in January. G60 Trauma "exists to optimize the recovery of people aged 60 years or older who have experienced a traumatic injury." The most common causes are falls and car accidents.

This ties in with one of Electronic Caregiver's interests. Working with New Mexico State University, it has developed a mobile Fall Risk Assessment Laboratory. This includes a 3-D motion-capture imaging system and a gait analysis pad in a 24-foot trailer.

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