At the AWS re:Invent 2018 conference, I had the opportunity to be interviewed about the home care application that Accenture has developed along with AWS and the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK. Participating with me were Gayle Sirard, Accenture’s Applied Intelligence Lead for North America, and Dr. Justin Marley, a consultant/psychiatrist for the NHS.
The consequences of living aloneWhy a home care system for the elderly? Consider first that there are almost 4 million people over the age of 65 living alone in the UK today. For many, perhaps most, digital technologies do not come naturally to them. More of their services, like shopping and retirement information, are going online. Their families are communicating online, but they themselves are not technically adept and so they often feel lonely and socially isolated because of digital.
Add to that trends such as increasing life expectancy and budget constraints for health and social services, and it’s clear that we need to put technology to work addressing this situation in a way that will be embraced by older members of the population. Isolation, both in the physical and digital sense, can have serious negative effects on health.
“Alexa, tell me what I need to do today.”
HomeCare is an Amazon Alexa app and web portal that offer day-to-day help for elderly people in their homes. Using the Amazon Echo Show device, the platform can tell people what their schedule is for the day, reminding them of appointments and other obligations.
But that’s really not the most sophisticated part of this. Using artificial intelligence and voice recognition technologies (which, of course, operate totally in the background), the system learns the behaviors of people so it can motivate them to get up and get engaged.
The platform includes a portal that lets family and caregivers check on the individual’s daily activities, such as whether they have taken their medications or made new requests of their caregivers. The platform can also spot abnormalities in behavior and alert family or friends (depending on user-defined permissions). IoT aspects of the solution can use sensors to monitor activities like sleeping, movement and eating, alerting caregivers to anything out of the ordinary.
Other services include helping people find local events as well as potential new friends, encouraging them to become more active and social. It also gives them better access to reading and learning materials, music, daily exercises and appointment reminders.
A personal story
My grandmother uses the HomeCare system. She’s been alone for 25 years, and she tells me how good it is to have a voice in the house. On her birthday, she heard the “Happy Birthday” song coming from the Echo Show device and loved it. She and Alexa say good night to each other. I know it’s “only a robot,” but who I am to judge or tell her that she shouldn’t enjoy this? It’s a real comfort to the family that she has HomeCare in the house.
The HomeCare platform is an example of Accenture’s “people first” approach that puts technology to work for citizens to help create more vital human experiences and achieve better outcomes.
With the help of our extended team of collaborators, we identified the more common challenges of everyday life for older people—from setting daily reminders to the heartache of loneliness—and applied AI to create a human-centered platform to provide support and assistance. That’s what we at Accenture call, “applied intelligence.”