The HIMSS Innovation Center fosters collaboration, communication and education that spans boundaries. This was on full display on Friday.
8 students in a Geriatric Health Management program from Taiwan visited the HIMSS Innovation Center. They are enrolled in a summer internship program at Case Western Reserve University- a program they affectionately referred to as “summer camp”. After a tour of the floor and the innovation spaces, we sat down and had a conversation about seniors and technology, asking the following question: “What are the barriers to technology usage by seniors and how does that affect their health and well-being?”
All of the students have living grandparents in their 80s. One by one, they recounted common themes: “My grandmother doesn’t think having a smart phone is necessary”; “She doesn’t like the touch screen”; “We got her a phone but she used one app and then gave up using it”; “My grandfather is happy with the telephone and his TV but doesn’t need much else”. However, when we pursued the possibilities, they all said they wished their grandparents could communicate more easily, express themselves more effectively and use technology to monitor their health and wellbeing in a way that they’d embrace.
Enter Alexa. For these students, an Echo Dot was a novelty. Because Alexa and Google Assistant were originally launched for English speakers, some of the most connected countries in the world do not yet have access (Taiwan has the highest smartphone penetration rate in the world at over 73%). We used Alexa to access a new skill by Well.Said called MyDayÔ, a tool for seniors to use Alexa daily for reminders, health and wellness, physical and mental exercise and connection to family and loved ones. After using MyDayÔ, the conversation changed. They said they could see their grandparents using this and the other features of Alexa. They also thought about ways that Alexa could be combined with other data- blood pressure or blood glucose from a connected monitor- to provide a meaningful health data stream. Plus, they really liked how easy it was to access music- “Alexa, play Taylor Swift” brought plenty of smiles.
Innovation and collaboration can happen anywhere. But when a “summer camp” comes the the HIMSS Innovation Center in Cleveland, it happens a little bit faster.