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Amazon devices connect COVID patients, hospital staff at Southeast Health

Amazon devices connect COVID patients, hospital staff at Southeast Health

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When the coronavirus pandemic first gripped the country, the need for masks, gowns, and gloves increased dramatically. Availability, however, did not.

Like other hospitals, Southeast Health in Dothan struggled to maintain its supply of personal protective equipment, or PPE, and looked at ways to conserve equipment while also protecting staff and patients from exposure to COVID-19. On top of protecting staff and patients, the protective gear created communication challenges between patients and staff.

Turns out, Amazon had a solution – a donation of 99 Echo Show devices.

The devices look like small tablets and sit on a bedside table in the patient’s room. With a drop-in feature on the devices, nurses and physicians can connect with patients via two-way audio and video. Patients can also use the Echo Shows to listen to music, ambient noises or check the weather.

Southeast Health was connected to Amazon through Aiva Health, a software company that has a secure platform that uses voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa so patients can communicate with hospital staff. Aiva helped program the devices at Southeast Health.

“One of our top priorities as a leadership team has been protecting our staff from this highly communicable virus,” said Melissa Owens, chief nursing officer at Southeast Health. “The national shortage of personal protective equipment and the disruption of the normal PPE supply chain is an ongoing concern. It’s amazing that Amazon and Aiva Health helped us solve this challenge by adapting previously-existing technology, Alexa-enabled Echo Show devices, in the healthcare setting. This is helping us preserve PPE and reduce staff exposure.”

The Echo Show devices were received in late June and have been in use for nearly two months now. Amazon donated to devices specifically for use for COVID-19 patients.

Southeast Health has the devices in each one of the hospital’s designated COVID rooms as well as nurse’s stations and physician areas around the hospital, said Eric Daffron, chief information officer at Southeast Health.

“You can’t connect from outside,” Daffron said. “It stays secure within our network.”

Nurses use the devices to conduct their hourly patient rounds. If alone, nurses can take their masks off so patients can actually see their faces, which puts some patients more at ease.

“They can’t see your face because you’ve got a mask on, a face shield and goggles and a gown – it just becomes an intimidating environment when that happens,” Daffron said. “It helps for them to be able to see the caregivers, to more clearly see their faces.”

The hospital also received 74 Amazon Fire tablets, which Daffron said will be used to connect patients with their loved ones.

Daffron said the experience has shown how useful the video technology can be in a healthcare setting even in a post-pandemic world.

“We’re going to see more and more of that telemedicine use stay in the mainstream and not just go back to normal where everything is in person,” Daffron said.

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