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Voice command technology helps seniors manage at home


Watching a client with Parkinson’s disease struggle to access a web portal on an iPad has led to the trial of an Australia-first technology by an in-home support provider.

Feros Care’s system uses the Google Assistant voice-command platform to help seniors find information on their MyFeros portal and interact with services.

By using the command ‘Hey Google, ask Feros Care’, they are able to find out information about upcoming appointments, carer visiting times, information about their accounts and whether they have any messages.

Seniors across two states are participating in a pilot.

More inclusive

Feros Care is adopting voice command technology.

Feros Care Chief Information Officer Glenn Payne says Feros Care began investigating ways of being more inclusive for clients with sight and dexterity issues after seeing first-hand the difficulties experienced by the Parkinson’s client.

“A few months ago we visited one of our clients who is using MyFeros and saw that navigating the portal on his tablet was frustrating him because he has Parkinson’s,” Mr Payne said.

“We walked away realising we hadn’t been inclusive of his needs, let alone others with dexterity or sight issues.”

“We needed a way to cater for all our clients, not just those who can use a computer, and voice-command technology through Google Assistant enables us to do that.”

After choosing Google Assistant as its platform,  Feros Care’s developers set about securely configuring its internal systems to link the MyFeros portal – which had provided an alternative to the phone contact centre for clients – with Google.

The system is being used daily by pilot participants, Mr Payne says. Forty clients had registered by March 12 when the system was officially launched and it had resulted in an 85 per cent reduction in calls to the contact centre.

Helping seniors manage life admin at home

Pam Hanley

Gold Coast Feros Care client and pilot participant Pamela Hanley, 73, is one of the trial participants.  She said the combination of the MyFeros portal and Google Assistant had been very helpful after a recent hospital stay.

“I couldn’t get out of bed to use the computer but was able to ask Google Home what Feros Care services I had that day, which staff were coming to see me and at what time,” she said.

Bill Bryce, another trial participant who has multiple sclerosis, said technology was critical for people with illness or disability.

“My mobility and coordination aren’t the best so it makes a huge difference to be able to access details about my services or plan via Google Assistant,” the 66-year-old from Brisbane said.

“It’s great that Feros Care is investing in new ways for us to communicate with them.”

Just the beginning

Feros Care is expanding its pilot with a view to it becoming a standard offering for clients, but Mr Payne says that’s just the beginning.

“While at present they can ‘ask Google’ to reschedule an appointment and it will create a job for our contact centre staff to address, we plan to adopt artificial intelligence so such changes can be made without human interaction,” he says.

Kia Wahl, Partnerships Manager for the Google Assistant, Australi, says the tech giant is thrilled to see its technology being adapted by the aged care sector.

“We’re delighted that Feros Care is discovering and developing new applications for the Google Assistant to enhance the lives of Aussie seniors and help them gain more independence around the home,” he said.

“With the Google Assistant, we’re working to give all Aussies a helping hand, whether they need to plan their day, set routines, automate their home and more.”

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