2021 SEP 09 (NewsRx) -- By a
The assignee for this patent application is
Reporters obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: “In recent years, many companies have introduced devices that accept voice commands and take actions based upon those voice commands. Some such devices operate on smart phones, but lately, many companies are producing what is known a digital assistant or “smart speakers” which are typically stand-alone devices that are connected to a network (e.g., the Internet). These digital assistants listen for voice commands, recognize and analyze the voice commands and act on those voice commands through a network. Often, such devices utilize a keyword to initiate action. For example, one device from Amazon® is Alexa®. In order to issue a command to this device, the user must first say the keyword, “Alexa”, followed by the command. For example, “Alexa, what is the weather in
“There are many uses for these digital assistants such as, to read/answer email or texts, to operate connected appliances within the home, to control the playing of music, to look up information/trivia, etc.
“Unrelated to these digital assistants are medical emergencies, predicaments, or medical alerts. Many people of all ages, though concentrated on those in their golden years, run into situations in which they need help, for example, after a fall, getting stuck in a home elevator, or the onslaught of a serious medical condition such as a stroke or heart attack. If another person is in the same home or nearby, the person having the medical emergency or other hazard can shout to get that person’s attention, but what about those who are alone, perhaps because others that live with them are out of the home, or they live alone. Shouting will not solicit help.
“A medical alarm is an alarm system designed to signal the presence of such an event that requires urgent attention and, if needed, to summon emergency medical personnel. Other terms for a medical alarm are Personal Emergency Response System (“PERS”) or medical alert. Elderly people and disabled people who live alone commonly use/require medical alarms.
“Typical medical alarm systems in use today have a wireless pendant or transmitter that is activated after an event has occurred. When the transmitter is activated, a signal is transmitted and relayed to an alarm monitoring company’s central station. The central station is staffed with trained personnel to assess the situation and contact other emergency agency or other programmed phone numbers. In some cases, personnel are dispatched to the site where the alarm was activated.
“Such medical alarm systems work well when properly installed, when the batteries have sufficient charge and when the user remembers or agrees to wear them. However, since traditional medical alarm systems are, at least in part, user operated, there are problematic drawbacks. For example, if a user gets up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom without their device, and falls or becomes ill and cannot reach their emergency device, or telephone; then they cannot get the emergency help they need, rendering the medical alert useless. Often, users have complications during the night, when trying to reach the bathroom. Often such users are not in possession of their medical alert device.
“Furthermore, such medical alarm systems rely on user operations that requires users to change their behavior, making current medical alarm systems inherently susceptible to users’ personal limitations, proclivities, and flaws-putting reliance on the user to remember to recharge the battery and consistently wear a pendant, wrist band, panic button, or other device for the entire day and night. Some users, however, do not want to wear the alarm pendant or wrist band because of aesthetics and/or inconvenience and/or privacy, rendering the device useless when needed. Also, some users forget to don or wear the device and the device may not be within reach when they need it most. Additionally, some users forget to charge the device regularly and the device simply shuts down and ceases to operate until recharged. In fact, approximately 30% of all users of such devices cancel medical alert service annually, possibly due to the fact that they no longer wear or use the device, despite the fact that the user is still in need of a medical monitoring. In an independent research study, 83% of subscribers to medical alert services did not have their medical alert wearable device within reach in a slip and fall at home and resulted in five (5) minutes or longer stranded on the floor and unable to get up without assistance.
“Additionally, as of this writing, both Amazon® Alexa® and Google Assistant® and other digital personal assistants (DPA) are not permitted to dial 911 by operating system programming. If a voice command is given to “Call for Police,” “Call for a Doctor,” “Call for an Ambulance,” fire or other emergency is given, those commands are blocked by the digital personal assistant, by design. One of the issues with issuing calls directly to 911 is that greater than 90% of all issued alarms from electronic alarm systems in
“Privacy is also of the utmost importance. In
“These digital assistants are perfect for summoning help, especially as described in the parent applications utilizing a server and call center for connecting an agent to determine the reason for help and dispatching the proper type of help, if any is needed, depending upon the nature of the call for help. Further, having these digital assistants within the users’ living quarters opens other features of the digital assistants for the users. For example, it is fully anticipated that the users be able to listen to music, ask questions like “keyword-what is the weather,” etc. It is also anticipated that the digital assistants be used in other medical-related transactions such as tele-medicine and communicating with medical professionals. For example, the user might say “keyword-connect me with doctor Smith.” In using a digital assistant in such a way, some of the information that transpires between the digital assistant and the other end is available, for example, to workers and agents of the company providing the digital assistant service. Therefore, providers are reluctant to sell or advertise digital assistants for such uses as this service would not be HIPAA compliant.
“Many users now carry a computer with them, for example, in the form of a smartphone or a smart watch. As prior systems disclosed using smart speaker devices to call for help or call for doctor smith, it is desirable to use such smart devices to call for help.
“Because of the above, almost all systems provided to summons help are directed to a call center staffed by agents of the provider of such systems. When a call comes into one of these agents, typically, the agent will attempt to talk with the caller to ascertain the need for help as well as the severity, but there are times when the caller is unresponsive or not able to comprehend the agent’s questions. Today, these agents have at most the name and address of the caller and possibly one or more contacts that can be called when needed. This is useful for some low-severity situations, but when the need is critical, it will take too long for the agent to call one of the contacts and discuss the situation (if answered). When a heart attack, stroke, uncontrolled bleeding, etc., is involved, every additional minute taken before help arrives may cost a life. As an example of how the systems of the past operate, when a user calls for help and says that they cut themselves with a kitchen knife, the agent will suggest a bandage and possibly compression they drive themselves to the emergency room, but the agent would not know that the caller has hemophilia in which the ability of the blood to clot is severely reduced, which requires faster action to keep the patient from losing too much blood.
“Today, such call centers determine the nature of the call for help and either answer the caller directly or summon help, for example, calling fire or emergency services in the vicinity of the caller.
“What is needed is a call center that triages each call for help and has access to several escalation paths depending upon the severity of the call for help.”
In addition to obtaining background information on this patent application, NewsRx editors also obtained the inventor’s summary information for this patent application: “As disclosed, there are many ways to call for help disclosed, using digital assistants or other smart digital devices that connect to a call center server computer system in any way using any networking architecture, including several secure and anonymous connection schemes that are described here within. Also disclosed is medical data stored at the call center server computer system that is accessible by an agent that is assigned the call for help to best understand the nature of the call for help. In some embodiments the identity of the caller is suppressed, but the agent will have access to certain medical data regarding the caller that contributes to the best understanding of the nature of the call. For example, if
“In such, the agent has access to a medical record of the caller, providing medical data regarding the caller and optionally one or more escalation paths. The one or more escalation paths include any of a contact (e.g., phone number) for emergency services at the location of the caller, a contact of a relative/friend of the caller, a contact of one or more doctors of which the caller is a patient and an identification of the type of doctor, a contact for a healthcare worker assigned to the caller (e.g., a nurse or hospice worker), a number of an assisted living facility in which the caller lives, or a mobile assistance service in the area of the caller. The agent first performs a triage-like function after asking the caller a few questions. For example, if the caller does not respond or only moans, the agent assumes something critical and calls the number for emergency services at the location of the caller. In the same example, if the caller is in an assisted living facility, the agent calls a medical services station at the assisted living facility to initiate dispatch of local medical personnel, as local medical personnel will arrive at the caller quicker. Now, if the patient is responsive, but indicates they are having chest pain, then the same services are summoned as with the unresponsive caller.
“If a caller describes an issue that is not life or limb threatening, the urgent response agent will confirm, on a recorded line, “To confirm, this is not a life-threatening emergency, but you do have questions or concerns and would like to speak to a nurse, is that correct?” For example, if the caller says they have a really bad headache, then the agent obtains the above confirmation, then tells the caller that they are going to transfer the call to one of the caller’s doctors and then transfers the call. If, instead, the caller indicates that they need an injection of insulin, but their hands are too shaky to inject the insulin, then the agent summons either a dedicated nurse or a mobile assistance service in the area of the caller.
“By the agent performing this triage-like service, the caller is best served by help that is commensurate with the issue, using a service that is most cost-effective and least wasteful, and reducing use of emergency services that are often overworked, under staffed, and often needed to help others.
“In embodiments using digital assistants, to protect Protected Medical Information (“PHI”), each digital assistant is virtualized in such a way that any individual or system gaining access to any of the data/voice sent or received by the digital assistant isn’t associated with the user of the digital assistant. In other words, from the perspective of the individual or system that has gained access to this data, it is simply random data related to somebody, but the individual or system has no way to correlate the data/voice to any one person. For example, if an eavesdropper hears “your diagnosis is cancer,” the eavesdropper only knows that somebody has just been given a diagnosis of cancer, but there is no way for the eavesdropper to know who has this diagnosis and, therefore, without being able to associate the captured data with an individual, privacy is maintained.
“Such privacy is not available from existing digital assistants that are configured using information about the user such as home address, email address and phone numbers. Further, these digital assistants connect to an existing home network (e.g., Wi-Fi) that has a digital modem with an address (MAC address) that identifies the home in which it is located, all of these identifying items prevent an existing digital assistant from being used to convey information on which one can rely upon privacy. A person can certainly use such digital assistants to convey private information, but there are no provisions to assure that such private information is safe. As in the above example, the eavesdropper is not only able to see the data (“you have cancer”), but is also able to associate the data with a location and possibly a single person, especially if that person lives alone.
“Additionally, the system for providing help is 911-compliant, as an agent (e.g., trained emergency professional) within the process assesses what is needed so as to facilitate the 911 call after the extent of the situation is known.
“In some embodiments, a system for providing help includes a device configured for a user to request help (e.g., a digital assistant) that is connected to a network. When a request for the help is made, a transaction is sent from this device to a call center server. Responsive to receiving the request for the help, the call center server uses a source address of the transaction to correlate the request for help to the user of the system for providing help. The call center server accesses medical information of the user and the call center server opens a dialog on an agent computer where the dialog includes at least some of the medical information of the user.
“In some embodiments, a method for providing help to a user is disclosed including receiving a request for help from a device that is associated with the user and, responsive to receiving the request for the help, using an address of the device to correlate the request for the help to the user. Medical information of the user is accessed and at least part of the medical information is provided at an agent computer so that an agent can determine from the at least part of the medical information and voice information from the user, a type of the help needed. Then, help is dispatched by an agent depending upon the type of the help needed.
“In some embodiments, a system for providing help to a user includes a digital assistant connected to a data network. Responsive to receiving a verbal request for help, software running on the digital assistant sends a transaction to a call center server. Responsive to receiving the transaction, software running on a computer of the call center server uses a source address of the transaction to correlate the transaction to the user. The software running on the computer of the call center server then accesses medical information of the user and opens a dialog at an agent computer. The dialog includes at least some of the medical information of the user and provides the medical information to an agent so the agent is able to determine a type of help that is needed by the user.”
The claims supplied by the inventors are:
“1. A system for providing help, the system comprising: a call center server computer system having a plurality of agent computers, each of the agent computers connected in the call center server computer system by a data network; a plurality of data records, each data record having medical information regarding a user and one or more contacts associated with the user; means for receiving a call for help at the call center computer system; means for determining the user based upon an identifier of the call for help; means for assigning an agent computer to the call for help and means for transferring at least part of the data record; means for accessing the data record of the user at the agent computer; and after a determination of the need for the help is made, a second call is made to one contact from the data record of the user, the one contact selected based upon the need for help.
“2. The system of claim 1, further comprising, after the second call is made, the call is connected with the second call.
“3. The system of claim 2, further comprising, after the call is connected with the second call, the agent computer is disconnected from the call.
“4. The system of claim 1, wherein the one or more contacts associated with the user is a contact selected from the list of an emergency medical service that covers the user, a relative of the user, a friend of the user, a nurse of the user, a hospice nurse of the user, a doctor of the user, a police that covers the user, a fire department that covers the user, an agent of an assisted living facility at which the user lives, a counselor of the user, a priest, a clergy person, a medical tele help service, a medical staffing pool, and a suicide prevention hotline.
“5. The system of claim 1, wherein when the determination of the need for the help indicates a severe situation, the second call is made to emergency services that cover the user and emergency personnel are dispatched.
“6. The system of claim 1, wherein the identifier of the call for help is a phone number that is private and not traceable to a user of the smart digital device.
“7. The system of claim 6, wherein an identity of the user is suppressed unless the determination of the need for the help indicates a severe situation.
“8. A method of providing help, the method comprising: providing a plurality of data records, each data record having medical information regarding a user and one or more contacts associated with the user; receiving a call for help at a call center computer system; determining the user based upon an identifier of the call for help; assigning an agent computer of the call center computer system to the call for help; transferring at least part of the data record to the agent computer; accessing the data record of the user at the agent computer; and after determining a nature of the need for the help, making a second call to one contact from the data record of the user after selecting the one contact selected based upon the need for help.
“9. The method of claim 8, further comprising, after making the second call, connecting the call with the second call, thereby providing voice communications between the user and the one contact from the data record of the user.
“10. The method of claim 9, further comprising, after connecting the call with the second call, disconnecting the agent computer from the call.
“11. The method of claim 8, wherein the one or more contacts associated with the user is a contact selected from the list of an emergency medical service that covers the user, a relative of the user, a friend of the user, a nurse of the user, a hospice nurse of the user, a doctor of the user, a police that covers the user, a fire department that covers the user, an agent of an assisted living facility at which the user lives, a counselor of the user, a priest, a clergy person, a medical tele help service, a medical staffing pool, and a suicide prevention hotline.
“12. The method of claim 8, wherein when the step of determining the need for the help indicating a severe situation, making the second call to emergency services that cover the user and dispatching emergency personnel.
“13. The method of claim 8, wherein the identifier of the call for help is a phone number that is private and not traceable to the user.
“14. The method of claim 13, further comprising suppressing an identity of the user unless the determining of the need for the help indicates a severe situation.”
For more information, see this patent application: Gray,
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