Personal digital assistants for health

In Staffordshire, we supplied over 400 Amazon Alexa Echo Shows to members of the public who had a long term health condition or were isolated to see if they helped people manage better. As we broadened the scheme, different groups were included, such as people with mental health problems, refugees, and children with learning disabilities.

This article describes some of what we have done in Staffordshire.

This editorial in the British Journal of General Practice looks at its value for patients. Click here to read it.


Using Alexa to encourage people to take their medication regularly was highlighted in this article.

Several people helped improve the use of Alexa for diabetes – patients who tried it out, and gave their feedback, others who conducted interviews, and Luke Bracegirdle from VirtualHealthShed, who wrote new Alexa skills.

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Digital inclusion is part of the message of self-care in the technological age. Many people could use technology better, if there was a purpose to it, but without a clear need, many see it as a gimmick, or a cost-saving measure. 

But people can understand their medical conditions better if they are participants in the recording of their blood pressure, blood oxygen readings, or blood sugar levels, and can stay at home, and treat themselves as agreed with their health professional, which saves them leaving their house when feeling ill, and can start treatment early.

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Remote monitoring via text messages, and the use of video consultations enables accurate care to be given when and where it is needed.

Without some engagement of the public in understanding the use of technology, just providing equipment will not achieve the desired results, so providing help, from organisations who can provide formal training, community groups, or buddies can help to increase confidence in using technology.

Sometimes people have difficulty travelling to centres, and technology can help with video consultation, or providing equipment to enable self-treatment to be carried out at home. Apart from using blood pressure monitors, peak flow meters, or pulse oximeters, more technologically advanced equipment is becoming available to use at home. An automatic blood sugar monitor linked to an app on the patient's phone can help people with diabetes to understand how their blood glucose varies according to their daily activities. 

A wearable wrist heart rate monitor is being used during exercise following heart attacks or cardiac surgery to give patients confidence to increase their activity, knowing that the effect on their heart is within agreed limits.

Other patients, who often fail to attend for pulmonary rehabilitation, are undergoing this training remotely, using Virtual Reality headsets. So far, the response has been very good. 

There is more information in our website

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