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How Northwell Health is Reimagining Healthcare Part 2: The Northwell Health Amazon Alexa Skill [PODCAST]

Cara Lemieux, Senior Communication Strategist
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In Part 1 of our conversation with our healthcare partner, Emily Kagan Trenchard, Associate Vice President of Digital & Innovation Strategy at Northwell Health, we discussed how Northwell Health is working to improve the digital patient experience and navigating the sea of options they have to choose from.

Here in Part 2, Emily gives us deep insight into the thinking and work that went into Northwell Health’s new Amazon Alexa Skill, how they developed it, and how it fits into their digital experience platform.


Conversational Interfaces In Healthcare

The recently released Alexa Skill, simply called “Northwell Health skill for Amazon Alexa”,  provides users with wait times at its hospital emergency departments and immediate care facilities from their GoHealth Urgent Care network in the New York Metro market. The project was born out of one of the health system’s regular ‘R&D Friday sessions’, where Northwell Health team members are encouraged to explore new technologies.

According to Emily, the skill was a multi-team effort and is a “natural marriage of some of the technology and data we already had, pairing it up to a new way that consumers are trying to access that information.”

Starting with their commitment to open technology, Northwell Health readily took to Amazon’s open API. Northwell Health’s User Experience team joined their interest and excitement about the possibilities of voice technology in healthcare with data and research on patient user behavior. According to the team, one of the most commonly requested pieces of information is the wait times at Emergency Department or Urgent Care facilities.

"We view voice as just one more channel for someone to use across a broad spectrum of tools, digital signage, text messages...meeting consumers where they're at," Emily explains.

Digital Channels For Healthcare

The Alexa Skill, according to Emily, is just one part of the overall patient experience ecosystem. When asked where this skill fits into Northwell Health’s larger digital experience platform, Emily explained that it integrates with Northwell’s Drupal 8 platform, Northwell.edu, which the team here at Phase2 has partnered with them on.

Emily explained how all of the teams are collectively approaching creating a consistent experience for their patients, and making the same information available across multiple channels. “This one particular Alexa Skill is just a single slice across an entire ecosystem of digital tools that are either built out and available today or under development...for instance, these wait times are also available on our websites and they are also available if you come into our facilities on our digital signs so you can see what the wait time is…we take one piece of information and push it out across many different channels,” she shared.

It’s clear that the unified vision of Northwell Health’s digital innovation needs to be as strong as the technology supporting it. When asked, Emily acknowledged that articulating that bigger vision is always a challenge in a large organization, but that it helps that the spirit of doing things differently is in Northwell’s DNA, and is aided by constant communication, understanding where there is subject matter expertise, and mutual respect across the teams.

The Future of the Digital Patient Experience

Predicting what the future holds for healthcare and the patient experience is not something that anyone can do with a great degree of certainty. However, Northwell Health takes a “very blue sky approach,” according to Emily. With the support of the health system’s corporate venture arm, Northwell Ventures, and an internal Center for Learning and Innovation, Northwell strives to stay ahead of the technology curve.

“Sometimes when we are looking at these new technologies that are coming out, we don’t know where the application is going to be yet,” Emily added. “These are the spaces where we say...‘look, I don’t know yet what drones are going to mean for our delivery of care, but let’s start playing around with them and understanding this technology’.”

You can hear more insight from Northwell Health in the podcast and learn:

  • How to achieve alignment across diverse teams

  • How Northwell Health’s commitment to open technology drives decisions

  • The measurements Northwell Health is using to gauge success

  • The way accessibility informed this project

  • The strategy behind Northwell Health's decision to simply call the Alexa Skill “Northwell Health Skill for Amazon Alexa”

Listen to part 1 of the podcast here. 

Cara Lemieux

Cara Lemieux

Senior Communication Strategist