— Alexa, forget my grocery list and morning traffic
reports. Tell me about CPR.
Amazon’s voice-activated digital assistant for the
home, has learned a new skill — dispensing medical
information about first aid from one of the best-known
names in medicine, Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic.
information is accessible by speaking to the Amazon
device, which users might appreciate if they’re busy
doing something with their hands, like putting aloe on a
burn or examining someone who has stopped breathing.
who enable the free Mayo Clinic First Aid program and
then ask Alexa for information about CPR are told,
multiple times, to call 911. The device also advises in
its robotic-female voice to begin cardiopulmonary
resuscitation for one minute and then call 911 if the
person is unresponsive from suffocation. If the user
asks for it, the device will go on to discuss specific
techniques for doing CPR on an adult, child or baby.
provide health information in a print newsletter,
digital newsletter, desktop web, mobile web, Mayo Clinic
app. We view this voice interface, specifically the
Amazon Alexa application, as basically a new channel to
provide that information," said Jay Maxwell, a
senior director in health information with the Mayo
Clinic Global Business Solutions, which developed Mayo
Clinic First Aid.
the program includes a disclaimer that Mayo Clinic First
Aid should not be used in a life-threatening medical
emergency, "instructions for CPR" is one of
the suggested topics in the program’s description,
along with "tell me about spider bites" and
"how to treat a cut."
mega-retailer Amazon sells a variety of hands-free home
assistant devices like the Echo and the Echo Dot that
can listen to human voices and respond to commands like
add eggs to the grocery list, check traffic or play
streaming music. Alexa is a cloud-based system that
responds directly to the user, similar to Apple’s Siri
just as apps can be downloaded at will for smartphones,
Alexa-enabled devices can add new "skills"
created by outside companies like the Pizza Hut program
that can order a pie for delivery, or the U.S. Bank
program that can securely check balances and recent
credit card purchases.
spokesman Daniel Gabis said Mayo developed its First Aid
program using Amazon’s self-service Alexa Skills Kit,
as other organizations have.
excited that Mayo Clinic developed its health
information skill for Alexa customers. Other developers
such as WebMD have built skills for Alexa using our
self-service Alexa Skills Kit," Gabis said via
WebMD Alexa program, and similar ones like DexMD,
include explicit disclaimers that the programs do not
provide medical advice. Mayo’s First Aid program says
it is for "information purposes only" and
should not be used in an emergency medical situation or
in place of professional medical advice. Rather, the
Mayo program offers instructions for self care for
"dozens of everyday mishaps and other
Sandhya Pruthi, associate medical director of Mayo
Clinic Global Business Solutions, said the content was
adapted from entries in the medical library that Mayo
already offers for free online. The information is
updated in real time as medical evidence evolves.
of the biggest challenges was adapting the information
from a format where users can move their eyes around a
web page to find what they want, to one in which Alexa
reads all the information aloud and users have to wait
to hear what they want and think of deeper questions to
has to be conversational. You can’t just read a
textbook," Pruthi said. "I think it’s more
understandable when it’s presented this way. … The
way that I talk to my patient today is the way that I
would want this to come across on Amazon Alexa."
is not paying Mayo for the content, and there are no ads
in the free download program. Mayo already had a
relationship with Amazon, through its 60-second audio
news feed for medical stories called Mayo Clinic Flash
Briefing, before the launch of the First Aid program.
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spokeswoman in Mayo’s public relations office
acknowledged that services like the First Aid program
give a boost to Mayo’s brand awareness with the
public, but she said the primary motivation was to
continue to extend the not-for-profit Mayo Clinic’s
health knowledge beyond its four walls.
voice-enabled experience is a new and growing global
innovation, and may be the largest shift in how people
interact with devices since the development of
smartphones," Mayo spokeswoman Duska Anastasijevic
wrote in an email. "Mayo Clinic is among the first
health care organizations in the voice space, and will
take what it learns to apply it toward other projects
that provide trusted information or potentially address
a market or consumer need."