Aged care provider Feros Care has developed a program that uses Google Assistant technology in an Australian-first initiative that will allow seniors to manage crucial aspects of their lives via voice-connected devices.
The partnership was announced at Google’s Wellbeing Breakfast today, where experts, researchers and YouTube creators discussed how to get the most out of technology.
“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,” Google Assistant Australia Partnerships Manager Kia Wahl says.
“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.”
Feros Care Chief Information Officer Glenn Payne says his team was inspired to embrace voice-connected devices while trialling another of the organisation’s new technologies, the MyFeros online portal and app.
“MyFeros allows our clients to do most of the tasks they were previously forced to phone our contact centre for,” he says. “They can view their upcoming services and carers at a glance, keep track of their financial journey and share messages with our staff via an internet-enabled device.
“Despite being an older demographic, we’ve had 40 clients register for the portal in the past month and it’s growing by the day. We’ve also seen an almost 85 percent reduction in phone calls to the contact centre from participants because they’re now getting their answers on the portal.”
Mr Payne says that despite the app’s success, some clients were still struggling to use the technology.
“That said, 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. We walked away realising we hadn’t been inclusive of his needs, let alone others with dexterity or sight issues.”
Mr Payne says Google Assistant helps combat these difficulties.
“We needed a way to cater for all our clients, not just those who can use a computer, and voice-command technology enables us to do that.”
“Having chosen the Google Assistant as the platform, our team of developers spent several months configuring our internal systems to link the MyFeros portal with Google in a secure manner and we can see that our pilot participants are now using it daily."
By using the voice command ‘Hey Google, ask Feros Care’, clients are able to find out what appointments are upcoming, which carers will be visiting them, information about their accounts and whether they have any messages.
“This is also 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,” Mr Payne adds.
Seniors across New South Wales and Queensland have been participating in a pilot of the program, including Feros Care client Pamela Hanley, who says the combination of the MyFeros portal and Google Assistant has benefited her greatly, particularly after a recent hospital stint.
“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,” the 73-year-old Gold Coast resident says.
“I’ve found it to be an excellent tool and I just hope people use it. They certainly shouldn’t be daunted. I would be lost without MyFeros portal now.”
Fellow pilot participant Bill Bryce who has multiple sclerosis says embracing technology is critical for people battling 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 says.
Mr Payne says Feros Care has offered clients smart home installations for almost a decade, including services such as telehealth and telecare.
“Working in aged care, we find it’s hard for people who have been independent their whole lives to suddenly rely on others to provide services for them. We’re excited that MyFeros and our use of Google Assistant are giving them back control and we’re going to keep embracing any technology we identify that will help our clients.”
Feros Care is now rolling out the the pilot program across Queensland, New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria, and is calling for more participants in those areas who are currently connected to, or wish to connect to, the MyFeros portal.
For more information, call Feros Care on1300 763 583.