BrainGuide uses cloud technology to empower people with knowledge and resources for brain health
Alzheimer’s, a progressive brain disease that gradually deteriorates memories and thinking skills, is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, according to nonprofit UsAgainstAlzheimer’s (UsA2). With more than 5.7 million people in the United States living with Alzheimer’s and no known cure, research and medical professionals are focused on determining ways to diagnose, treat, and possibly cure this disease.
Alzheimer’s—the most common form of dementia—can start anywhere between five to 20 years before symptoms appear. There is strong evidence that suggests you can protect your brain health by taking action to reduce the risk of cognitive decline as you age, such as making key lifestyle changes like getting regular exercise, socializing, keeping your heart healthy, and asking your doctor for regular brain health checkups. To help address the immense need for brain health information and insights, UsA2 recently launched BrainGuide working with AWS and Biogen. Biogen provided in-kind and financial support. BrainGuide is a first-of-its-kind platform that empowers people with knowledge and resources to take the best next steps in managing their own or a loved one’s brain health. BrainGuide runs on AWS, using state-of-the-art technologies to power the memory questionnaire capability and make it available to anyone with a telephone or Internet access.
How BrainGuide works
BrainGuide includes a confidential memory questionnaire—taken over the phone or online in English or Spanish—followed by tailored education and resources based on the answers provided. This allows people worried about brain health, people living with the disease, and their caregivers to confidently determine the next step in their brain health journey.
Users can interact with BrainGuide via an online chat bot at www.mybrainguide.org or via phone at toll-free number 855-BRAIN-411. The BrainGuide memory questionnaire can be completed as a self-administered questionnaire or filled out by a caregiver or someone close to you. Each person who uses BrainGuide receives a set of resources that are tailored to their responses. These resources address risk reduction approaches, ways to check memory concerns, support a family member, or take action after a diagnosis by a doctor of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer’s disease.
BrainGuide is not intended to diagnose or make treatment recommendations regarding Alzheimer’s or any other disease. No personally identified information is recorded or shared with anyone other than the person completing the questionnaire.
How AWS built it: Using the cloud to provide a seamless, automated, and secure experience
UsA2’s goal with this platform was to create an empathetic and anonymous user experience that is helpful to all patients and caregivers, focusing on an easy-to-use, medically proven cognitive questionnaire. To do so, the user interaction with the solution had to be completely automated. Working with AWS experts, UsA2 chose two simple ways for the user to interact with the system: via an online chat bot and via a phone call. The requirement of both interactions was ease of use and scalability to support a large number of users. UsA2 chose Amazon Connect, a fully managed, omnichannel cloud contact center, and Amazon Lex, a service for building conversational interfaces, to develop the voice and web chat experience.
For the workflow, the focus was automation and building a fully-managed service that was easy to configure and did not require UsA2 to manage servers or complex resources. As the architecture diagram in Figure 1 highlights, the approach leverages several managed services from AWS—including Amazon Connect, Amazon Lex, Amazon Pinpoint, and AWS Lambda—to create a pleasant voice and web experience for patients and caregivers. Amazon Connect is a simple to use cloud contact center service which is used to build a voice experience for the user. This service powers the toll-free number, 855-BRAIN-411. Amazon Lex, which uses the same deep learning technologies as Alexa, works as a foundation for the conversational interface for the voice and chat features. The natural language understanding (NLU) capabilities of Amazon Lex allowed AWS to build a lifelike conversational experience for the end-user, focusing on empathy and a natural conversation flow. Amazon Pinpoint, a scalable outbound and inbound marketing communication service, helps with the delivery of helpful resources to patients and caregivers via SMS text. AWS Lambda, a serverless compute service, enables the solution to scale without UsA2 having to worry about managing resources like servers to accommodate heavy traffic.
Scaling to support a high volume of users on the website
The voice and web chat bot experience is accompanied by a website, www.mybrainguide.org, which provides information on MCI and Alzheimer’s disease. To support a high volume of website visitors, UsA2 uses Amazon CloudFront, Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3), and Amazon Route53. Amazon CloudFront is a content delivery network (CDN) that speeds up the delivery of webpages by caching them closer to where the users are located. Amazon CloudFront works seamlessly with any AWS source, such as Amazon S3. Amazon S3 is a highly durable and available object storage service, which is where UsA2 hosts the static files for the webpage. Amazon Route53, a highly available and scalable cloud domain name system (DNS) service, provides a way to route incoming web page requests to the Amazon CloudFront distribution. Amazon GuardDuty, a threat detection service that continuously monitors for malicious activity and unauthorized behavior, is used to monitor the Amazon Route53 DNS logs, network flow logs, API events, and Amazon S3 activity.
Providing analytics and insights to help improve user interaction
Measuring interactions and analytics are crucial for evaluating the effectiveness of the application to users. UsA2 uses analytics services including Amazon QuickSight, Amazon CloudWatch, and Amazon Athena to power analytics and reporting on their BrainGuide platform. When the user interacts with the web or the voice bot, Amazon Lex creates conversational logs which are anonymously stored in Amazon S3. These logs are queried by Amazon Athena, an interactive query service that makes it easy to analyze data in Amazon S3 using standard SQL. Amazon QuickSight, a cloud-based business intelligence service, pulls the structured data from Amazon Athena and creates visualizations and shows trends in a dashboard for UsA2 staff. This helps UsA2 understand and improve the effectiveness of the application.
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