Tech and Science

“Hey Siri, how do I do CPR?”: Study finds technology may not help save a life

Voice assistants like Google Assistant, Siri, and Alexa can help with things like the weather and recipes, but what about CPR?

Maybe not so much, a new report showed.

Only 59% of voice assistant responses actually included cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) information., according to a study published on Monday. Only about a third actually gave CPR instructions.

“We found that when we asked AI voice assistants questions about CPR, the responses were really irrelevant and even had inconsistencies,” said the study's lead author, Dr. Adam Landman, chief information officer and senior vice president of digital at Mass General Brigham, and an attending emergency physician.

According to the study, researchers asked eight questions related to CPR instructions from Amazon Alexa on Echo Show 5, Apple Siri on iPhone, Google Assistant on Nest Mini, and Microsoft Cortana on a Windows 10 laptop.

Two Boboard-certified emergency medical professionals used transcripts to assess the accuracy of responses, the study said.

“This is an important study for us as an organization, helping us to understand how we can better work with VA equipment manufacturers and as we step into the world of AI, ensure that credible organizations like the AHA provide the top answers of these devices are.” said Dr. Comilla Sasson, Vice President for Science and Innovation at the American Heart Association and practicing emergency room physician. Sasson was not involved in the research.

The results show that those who witness a medical emergency should not rely on voice assistants for medical information, Landman said.

“Bystanders should give priority to calling 911 if they see a patient suspected of having an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest,” he added.

The CPR information you need to know

If someone close to you needs CPR, how should you prepare?

“First of all, take 90 seconds and learn about CPR and how to use an[automated external defibrillator],” Sasson said. “Awareness is the first step to action.”

The American Heart Association offers CPR classes and their website has resources for creating a cardiac response plan for schools, workplaces, and sports.

It's also important to share the information and make sure others around you are familiar too, she added.

About 960 people in the United States experience cardiac arrest every day, so it's important that as many people as possible are educated, Sasson said. “This is important information because the life you save will likely be the life of someone you know or love,” she added.

A possible future for technology

One positive aspect of CPR being so researched and standardized is that there are simple ways for the technology to provide help, Landman said.

“If we can take appropriate evidence-based content and work with the tech companies to integrate it, I think there's a real opportunity to improve the quality of that instruction right away,” he said.

One improvement Landman proposes is standardizing the phrasing people can use so they know exactly how to get quick CPR information.

Resources like music can also complement CPR efforts, he added.

“One of the challenges with layperson CPR is ensuring that laypersons are maintaining the appropriate rate of compression,” Landman said. The beat of the Bee Gees' “Staying Alive” is a good guide.

“You could imagine that if you had a smartphone or voice assistant with you, the voice assistant and/or smartphone could play the music ‘Staying Alive' at the right time when you need to give chest compressions,” he says.

While there is a good chance in the future, the first thing viewers should do in the event of a cardiac event is to call 911, Landman said.

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