Smart speakers are increasingly being used in healthcare settings to empower patients and ease workflows for clinicians and caretakers, says a recent HealthTech article by Christine Holloway, vice president of CAST Business Associate CDW Healthcare.
In this guest piece, “Make Smart Speakers Part of Your Care Strategy,” Holloway referred to research presented at the 2019 LeadingAge Annual Meeting & EXPO. The study found that senior living residents who used smart speakers had a 44% drop in depression over six months.
Additional highlights are as follows:

  • In Thrive Senior Living in Atlanta, residents send requests to care teams through Google and Amazon smart speakers and custom apps. Initial results showed a thumbs up from residents, and care teams arrived better informed.
  • Last year, CDW helped provide Google Home and other smart devices in a four-bedroom home for older adults with disabilities managed by Easterseals Southern California. The devices respond to preset commands—such as “good morning” to raise window blinds—and are personalized to meet each user’s needs.
  • Other benefits of smart speakers include better outcomes, which bring better reimbursements, and the ability to redirect staff to where care is most urgently needed. 

Privacy Concerns and CAST Guidance

Holloway also noted the importance of guarding privacy. For more information on this critical aspect of using smart speakers, please see “Opportunities, and Risks, with New Smart Voice Technology in Senior Living” from LeadingAge CAST Supporter BlueOrange Compliance and LeadingAge CAST. The article shares guidance on policies, procedures, training, and monitoring of voice technologies.
Security measures are needed beyond Amazon Alexa’s new HIPAA-compliant features, which are currently only available to a few healthcare providers invited by Amazon to experiment with the platform. Important preventative measures include network segmentation, using only building-owned devices, limiting skills to caregivers, a robust network infrastructure with adequate bandwidth, and educating staff and patients on the cybersecurity measures they must take.