Amazon took a cross-country bus tour to explore tech for the elderly

Babak Parviz, PhD, Amazon's vice president of special projects, embarked on a cross-country bus tour in the spring of 2014 to learn how technology can assist the aging population, CNBC reports.

Dr. Parviz joined expert geriatrician Bill Thomas, MD, who had been working periodically as a consultant for Amazon, to study trends in the aging population across the U.S. Together with other Amazon colleagues, Drs. Parviz and Thomas stopped in Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and Pennsylvania to meet  seniors, physicians, geriatricians and leaders.

CNBC asked Amazon about the bus tour, and company spokesperson told the news outlet, "At Amazon, we obsess over all of our customers. We frequently seek diverse outside perspectives to help us meet and exceed customer needs."

One key trend they noticed was a tendency toward "aging in place," which describes older Americans' desires to remain at home — as opposed to nursing homes — aided with monitoring devices and other sensors. Three people who met with Amazon on its tour said technologies addressing those needs were a key focus. Specifically, they discussed ways of improving the current technologies available to the aging population to better meet their unique needs.

While Amazon's voice assistant Alexa shows promise of making lives easier, many older Americans said Alexa speaks too quickly and its deep voice isn't ideal for those with hearing aids. Additionally, a number of Amazon's products and services — such as grocery delivery and medical supply offerings — could be better adapted to address seniors' needs.

The team even discussed how the elderly face loneliness and isolation, according to CNBC.

"Something … we've been building for some period of time and we deeply care about ... relates to what happens to older people," Dr. Parviz said at an event a few months ago — nearly three years after the tour. "We have looked at the older population in the context of health ... and we know this group has a lot of issues and unmet needs."

More articles on health IT:
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ONC head Dr. Don Rucker says agency wants patients to manage their health with smartphone apps

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