a home hub featuring icons of all the tasks it can assist with in a thinking cloud

Exploring Elder Care Robotics: Voice Assistants and Home Hubs

This article is part of a four-part series that researches how robotics are being developed for aging care and investigates their ethical implications. In our first article, we explored emotional companion robots, which soothe and comfort patients experiencing loneliness, depression, or diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Today, we look at voice assistants and home hubs—robots designed to coordinate and simplify daily tasks around the house. 

What are Voice Assistants and Home Hubs?

Unlike other robots in this series, you are probably familiar with voice assistants and home hubs. These robots, which include Amazon Echo, Google Home, Apple Siri, Samsung Ballie, and Nest, respond to human commands (voice, motion, or input) to complete tasks like preheating the oven, playing a podcast, or refilling a prescription. Several devices also incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) to learn household patterns and anticipate needs.  However, unlike social robots (covered later in this series), voice assistants do not proactively engage with users unless programmed or commanded.   Read More

A frustrated woman sits at her desk, staring at her computer. Her head is resting in her hand

Patient-Directed Uses vs. The Platform

By Adrian Gropper, MD

This post originally appeared on The Health Care Blog.

This piece is part of the series “The Health Data Goldilocks Dilemma: Sharing? Privacy? Both?” which explores whether it’s possible to advance interoperability while maintaining privacy. Check out other pieces in the series here.

It’s 2023. Alice, a patient at Ascension Seton Medical Center Austin, decides to get a second opinion at Mayo Clinic. She’s heard great things about Mayo’s collaboration with Google that everyone calls “The Platform”. Alice is worried, and hoping Mayo’s version of Dr. Google says something more than Ascension’s version of Dr. Google. Is her Ascension doctor also using The Platform?

Alice makes an appointment in the breast cancer practice using the Mayo patient portal. Mayo asks permission to access her health records. Alice is offered two choices, one uses HIPAA without her consent and the other is under her control. Her choice is: Read More

Filing archives cabinet on a laptop screen

The Right Lesson from the Google-Ascension Patient Privacy Story

By I. Glenn Cohen

As has been well reported in the media, there is a controversy brewing over nonprofit hospital chain Ascension sharing millions of patient records with Google for their project codenamed “Nightingale.” (very Batman, if you ask me!) Most of the discussion so far, and the answers have not yet become pellucid, concerns whether the hospital and Google complied with HIPAA.

 

This is important, don’t get me wrong, but it is important that conversation not ignore a more important question: Read More

Person looking at a Fitbit watch in a Best Buy store

Reviewing Health Announcements at Google, Facebook, and Apple

By Adriana Krasniansky

Over the past several days, technology players Google, Apple, and Facebook have each reported health-related business news. In this blog post, we examine their announcements and identify emerging ethical questions in the digital health space.

On Nov. 1, Google announced plans to acquire smartwatch maker Fitbit for $2.1 billion in 2020, subject to regulatory approval. The purchase is expected to jumpstart the production of Google’s own health wearables; the company has already invested at least $40 million in wearable research, absorbing watchmaker Fossil’s R&D technology in January 2019.

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