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Digital personal assistants are smart ways for assistive technology to aid the health and wellbeing of patients and carers

Background: Digital health solutions such as assistive technologies create significant opportunities to optimise the effectiveness of both health and social care delivery. Assistive technologies include ‘low-tech’ items, such as memory aids and digital calendars or ‘high-tech’ items, like health tracking devices and wearables. Depending on the type of assistive devices, they can be used to improve quality of life, effect lifestyle improvements and increase levels of independence. Acceptance of technology among patients and carers depends on various factors such as perceived skills and competencies in using the device, expectations, trust and reliability. Objectives: This service evaluation explored the impact of a pilot service redesign focused on improving health and wellbeing by the use of a voice-activated device ‘smart speaker’, Alexa Echo Show 8. Methods: A service evaluation/market research was conducted for a pilot service redesign programme. Data were collected via a survey in person or telephone and from two focus groups of patients (n = 44) and informal carers (n = 7). The age of the study participants ranged from 50 to 90 years. Also, the participants belonged to two types of cohort: one specifically focused on diabetes and the other on a range of long-term health conditions such as multiple sclerosis, dementia, depression and others. Results: The device had a positive impact on the health and social well-being of the users; many direct and indirect benefits were identified. Both patients and carers had positive attitudes towards using the device. Self-reported benefits included: reminders for medications and appointments improved adherence and disease control; increased independence and productivity; and for those living alone, the device helped combat their loneliness and low mood. Conclusion: The findings from the study help to realise the potential of assistive technology for empowering supporting health/social care. Especially, the season of COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for remote management of health, the use of assistive technology could have a pivotal role to play with the sustainability of health/social care provision by promoting shared care between the care provider and service user. Further evaluation can explore the key drivers and barriers for implementing assistive technologies, especially in people who are ageing and with long-term health conditions. 

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Journal article
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BMC Geriatrics
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