In the age of smart technology, voice assistants like Siri and Alexa have become ubiquitous tools for various tasks.
However, a recent study suggests that relying on these virtual assistants in life-threatening situations, particularly for medical emergencies like cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), may not be the most reliable option.
Earlier this year, researchers conducted a study examining the effectiveness of voice assistants in providing CPR-related information.
The results were less than reassuring, revealing that only 59 percent of responses from voice assistants included relevant CPR information. Furthermore, approximately one-third of the responses offered actual CPR instructions.
Dr. Adam Landman, the lead author of the study and Chief Information Officer at Mass General Brigham, expressed concerns about the findings, stating, “We found that when we asked questions related to cardiopulmonary resuscitation to AI voice assistants, (the answers) really lacked relevance and even came back with inconsistencies.”
The study involved posing eight CPR-related questions to popular voice assistants, including Amazon Alexa on Echo Show 5, Apple Siri on iPhone, Google Assistant on Nest Mini, and Microsoft Cortana on a Windows 10 laptop. Emergency medicine doctors assessed the answers, revealing significant gaps in the quality and accuracy of information provided.
Dr. Landman emphasized that people should not rely on voice assistants during medical emergencies and underscored the importance of calling emergency services (999 in the UK) for immediate assistance. Despite the current limitations, he remains optimistic about the potential for technology to play a more helpful role in the future.
Landman believes that by collaborating with tech companies and incorporating evidence-based content, there is an opportunity to enhance the quality of instructions provided by voice assistants. While acknowledging the current shortcomings, he sees a path toward improvement that could make these virtual assistants more valuable in critical situations.
However, until such improvements are implemented, individuals are strongly advised to follow established guidelines for CPR. The NHS provides a comprehensive guide to CPR, recommending “hands-only CPR” for those not trained in the procedure. The steps involve kneeling next to the person, placing the heel of one hand on the centre of their chest, interlocking fingers, and using body weight to perform chest compressions at a rate of 100 to 120 times per minute until professional help arrives.
In summary, while voice assistants may excel in various everyday tasks, their reliability in providing accurate and timely information during medical emergencies, particularly CPR, remains a concern. The study underscores the critical importance of relying on established emergency services and guidelines when faced with life-threatening situations.