Aged services provider Feros Care has introduced the Google Assistant to its in-home care clients to increase their access to information and services and reduce their reliance on the call centre.
Using Google Actions and the DialogFlow natural language processor along with custom APIs, Feros Care was able to create a voice activated system that connected with its MyFeros portal, used for everything from checking appointments to requesting assistance.
Every Feros interaction with clients is captured on the portal, including medical interventions and advice, all of which helps seniors self-manage their experience to retain independence.
Even though the system was designed to be as user-friendly as possible, some seniors still struggled with the interface, especially if they had mobility issues.
Feros Care CIO Glenn Payne told iTnews that when the MyFeros portal was first trialled in Port Macquarie, a client with Parkinson’s highlighted some of the flaws in the system.
“We realised we weren’t being as inclusive as we should have been.”
“We decided to look at what we could do to help people with dexterity issues or vision impairment to deliver something they would feel comfortable using.”
The Google Assistant plugin lets clients use the portal with simple voice commands at any time of day as many times as they like - a huge benefit if a senior has a fall and can’t reach the phone for help, or is recovering in bed and can’t readily use a tablet or phone.
It’s also useful for letting Feros Care know if any services need to be cancelled or rescheduled if, for example, a client is headed into hospital for a short stay or goes on holiday,
On the reverse, the portal’s integration with Android TVs and the Google Hub means clients can see who’s coming to help them out - a feature which helps reduce anxiety when a client’s regular staff go on leave.
“One of the things we find when we ask people what they like about our services is their relationships with caregivers,” Payne said.
“But when a regular carer is off sick or on leave, that can be quite distressing to get someone new in helping around the house or with really personal services like washing.
“Now a little card pops up on the TV and says Louise might be coming today and it gives a little bio that says she speaks French, has three kids and loves going to the gym and cross fit. It really helps start that new relationship.”
The system has also been connected to smart locks timed to appointments.
“If people have mobility issues it might take them 20 minutes to get up and answer the door, and then we get a note saying they’d already left. This saves them the hassle of having to get up and find the walking frame and slowly get to the door.”
The push to connect Feros Care’s system with a virtual assistant came about help seniors make their own choices while staying safe, connected and independent at home, and wasn’t seen as an efficiency or productivity initiative.
Nonetheless, there’s been a 20 percent reduction in calls to the Feros call centre, while 2400 messages had been delivered via the assistant by early 2019.
This project is a finalist in healthcare category of the iTnews Benchmark Awards 2020.