Alexa, leave me alone, please

KEY TAKEAWAY:  The idea that a device like Alexa can help manage a patient’s chronic health problem is  a good one but unrealistic.  

Cracks are already starting to appear in the home wired device market.  There are stories that Alexa, listening in on conversations, has been used to alert police and that some legal professionals are requesting transcripts from “monitored conversations”.  I’m sure eventually these issues will be worked out, but won’t be worked out is a perception of privacy invasion.

A story recently making the rounds online is leading with “Alexa, please help me manage my diabetes”.  That is pure garbage.  No device, or app for that matter, can help patients manage their health because today people simply don’t have enough time.

Diabetes management is among the most active, well-funded and rapidly-evolving areas of digital health. Connected tools that allow people living with diabetes to monitor their own blood glucose levels and work with digital coaching platforms to choose the best lifestyle practices to stay healthy abound, as do analytics platforms that enable remote monitoring and more detail-rich data visualization to help clinicians keep better tabs on their patients.

But compared with the traditional method of in-office visits, does self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) via digital tools result in better health and wellness for people with non-insulin-treated type 2 diabetes?

In the case of a 450-person cohort studied at 15 primary care practices across the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill health system, the answer was a flat “No.”

“Incorporating technology into self-management activities has been touted as potentially transformative for patients, and to date some smaller studies support this notion. However, our findings do not,” the researchers wrote in an article published by the Journal of the American Medical Association

So what about devices like Alexa?  Well, they could be used, for example, to renew prescriptions and maybe even remind patients to take their medications, [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]but I can’t think of anything more annoying than a device telling me in the morning to take my medications.[/inlinetweet]

If we want, and desire, patients to better their chronic conditions, then what is needed is an integrated approach that uses both incentives and education to raise awareness.  Insurance companies, for example, should lower premiums for patients who manage their chronic health problems.

There isn’t a device yet that can help patients manage a chronic health problem when they don’t want to or can’t because of lack of time or other issues. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””] These in home voice assisted devices can help research medications and place renewal orders, but there is a fine line between helping patients and being a pain in the ass.[/inlinetweet]