Amazon Alexa Could Help with Chronic Pain

Researchers at Pennsylvania State University are looking for a way to use Amazon Alexa as an alternative to opioids to treat pain. Alexa will use Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) as a non-addictive pain treatment. In MBSR, which has been proven to treat chronic pain and improve overall quality of life, patients have conversations with a virtual coach from their homes. The addition of Alexa to MBSR will make it easier for patients to use this method regularly and in the long-term.

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Amazon Alexa could be used in lieu of opioids, according to researchers at Penn State

Although there are many MBSR applications on smart phones, it can be difficult for people with chronic pain to access them. Alexa, on the other hand, uses voice controls, making it easier for patients to engage. Another problem with current MBSR applications is lack of engagement.

“Long-term engagement with MBSR practices is essential for effective pain management and subsequently reducing the risk of opioid dependence…With Alexa, you don’t have to get up from your seat to access the practices,”

said Saeed Abdullah, assistant profession of Information Sciences and Technology and the project’s primary investigator. Alexa allows patients to easily practice MBSR at home on a regular basis, which should increase compliance rates and improve patient outcomes. Pennsylvania is one of the top 10 states in the country in regards to overdose deaths, according to research from the Penn State Consortium to Combat Substance Abuse, with 5,456 related deaths in 2017 alone, making this research acutely important and timely.

The research done at Penn State is not the first time Alexa has been used in conjunction with medical treatment. Currently, Cedars-Sinai Hospital is piloting a program that has put Alexa into 100 patient rooms. Patients can tell Alexa to change a channel or get a nurse, as well as ask her for conversational information. By using Alexa for simple tasks, nurses can focus more on medical care, according to Golda Moeales, assistant nurse manager of General Surgery at Cedars-Sinai. In addition, Amazon recently patented technology that would enable Alexa to tell when a user is sick and give advice such as medicine suggestions or chicken noodle soup recipes. The voice assistant, still relatively new, has many potential uses in the field of medicine and beyond.

Aliza Vigderman

Aliza Vigderman

Aliza is a journalist living in Brooklyn, New York. Throughout her career, her work has spanned many intersections within the tech industry. At SquareFoot, a New York-based real estate technology company, she wrote about the ways in which technology has changed the real estate industry, as well as the challenges that business owners face when they want to invest in property. At Degreed.com, an education technology website, Aliza created digital content for lifelong learners, exploring the ways in which technology has democratized education. Additionally, she has written articles for The Huffington Post as well as her own content on Medium, the online publishing platform. Aliza’s love of journalism and research stems from the excellent Journalism program at Brandeis University. At Brandeis, Aliza interned as a research assistant at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism, a non-profit “news room without walls”. There, Aliza was paired with an investigative journalist and used academic databases to obtain data on everything from the suicide rates in Bhutan to local Boston court cases. Her last position was as an account executive at Yelp, educating business owners on the power of technology to increase revenue. Throughout, however, her heart remained with tech journalism, and she’s thrilled to be writing for Security Baron. When she’s not keeping afloat of the latest tech trends, Aliza likes to cook, read, and write. A former high school “Class Clown,” Aliza has completed two feature-length screenplays, a pilot, and countless comedic sketches. On her days off you can find her relaxing in Prospect Park, trying the latest flavors at Ample Hills Ice Cream, and spending time with friends and family.

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