Amazon Alexa Helps First Responders in Ambulances

ambulancesImage credit: Brewster

Here’s an interesting thought: One day, Alexa may help to save your life.

We don’t mean she’ll turn off the lights when you've already crawled into bed after a really long day. We mean actually save your life.

Brewster Ambulance Service, a private company in Massachusetts, announced earlier this year that they intend on piloting Amazon Echo Dots in a few of their emergency vehicles. Their objective? To give ambulance personnel a quick, hands-free way to consult treatment information.

Currently, ambulances carry around 300-page reference materials and lengthy procedure manuals. While ending up in an ambulance after a night out would be bad enough, no one wants to watch their EMT freeze and say, “Um…hold on a second,” before desperately flipping through the pages of a hefty book.   

While we’d all like to think every medical professional knows exactly what they’re doing all the time, it’s understandable that they’d want to double check a symptom or procedure before working on a patient. There is also the case of EMT interns who may need a refresher or a quick nudge in the right direction.

Brewster’s clinical director, Chris DiBona, explained to The Boston Globe why relying on physical manuals in ambulances is a problem,

“Looking through the protocols can sometimes take first responders away from hands-on patient care, like taking someone’s blood pressure.”

With Alexa on board, EMTs would simply have to yell out things like, “Alexa! What is the procedure for alcohol poisoning?” or, “Alexa, tell me more about Ackerman syndrome.” They could also ask Alexa for information other than medical protocols, such as the location of the nearest burn unit.

So how is Brewster managing the transition from piles of manuals to voice technology? Don’t worry, they’re not relying on Google searches for any of their information (otherwise every symptom would just lead to “cancer”). The ambulance service is actually pairing their Amazon Echo Dots with a large reference document known as the Emergency Medical Services Statewide Treatment Protocols.

While Alexa seems to be taking the information pretty well, Director DiBona told The Patriot Ledger that the software team is still working out a few bugs. One such bug is the difficulty the AI assistant has with Latin words and abbreviations, which they hope to solve before the Alexa pilot program rolls out this July.

Having voice-activated helpers in ambulances seems like a great way to support healthcare professionals, and Brewster isn’t the only one seeing the potential. Certain hospitals are already conducting their own pilot programs where smart speakers are in charge of giving training instructions and relaying administrative information

This was just the tiniest glimpse into the life of voice technology In healthcare. If you find all this as fascinating as we do, then you’d better head over to VOICE and snag an all-access pass to the ultimate round-up of voice tech talks, demos, hackathons, and workshops. From Amazon Alexa evangelists to AI healthcare experts from WebMD, you don't want to miss it.