Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Washington D.C. Adds Amazon Echo Devices, Powered by Volara, to Make Stays Easier for Families

Michal Christine Escobar
Senior Editor, Hotels
a living room filled with furniture and a large window

Ronald McDonald House Charities® of Greater Washington, D.C. (RMHCDC), has equipped its newly renovated rooms with Amazon Echo devices, powered by Volara, to provide families of locally hospitalized children with access to information and serviceon voice command. The goal of RMHCDC is to help families faced with pediatric illness to cope better and focus on the needs of their sick child. Volara — leveraging its real-time conversation management software and secure integrations hub — is helping RMHCDC meet that goal with Alexa.

“We want to make the stays for families easier and more convenient,” said Sarah Quillin, VP of Development and Marketing for RMHCDC. “Putting an Echo device in each of our rooms will go a long way towards making that happen. Giving family members an immediate response to questions like ‘Alexa, what’s for dinner tonight?’ or ‘Alexa, what are today’s activities?’ will make their experiences so much better. Families can also ask Alexa to order a ride to pick them up at the House and take them to the hospital or learn about an on-premises yoga class, thereby relieving some of the stress they are experiencing daily.”

Using Alexa is as simple as RMHCDC guests asking a question:

“Alexa, tell me about Movie Night.”

Alexa: Come and enjoy a movie and snacks every Wednesday evening from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Multipurpose Room located on the first floor.

“Alexa, tell me about Painting and Relaxation.”   

Alexa: Need to unwind? Join us on Tuesday evenings from 7 to 8 p.m. for peaceful music and painting. Located in the Multipurpose Room on the 1st floor.

“Alexa, tell me about Meals.”

Alexa: Volunteer groups often provide meals for families at the Ronald McDonald House. Please see the information screen in the dining room for the meal schedule.

Guests can also ask Alexa to recommend a pizza place, a movie theatre or a shopping mall, among other locations. Additionally, Alexa can make maintenance requests and/or call local hospitals.

“Through this technology initiative, Volara and Alexa for Hospitality are helping us free up staff time and improve our efficiency,” Quillin said. “In 2019, we had 3,000 volunteers assisting with whatever we needed; due to ongoing coronavirus-related restrictions on outside visitors, we were down to 215 in 2020. Being able to optimize maintenance requests through Alexa and prioritize issues happening with a room helps us to meet our families’ needs and eliminates a lot of time-consuming steps for staff and volunteers.”

The mission of RMHCDC is to ease the hardship of children’s illness on families through programs that directly improve the health and wellbeing of children. They help families struggling with problems, such as how to stay near and support a hospitalized child, how to afford staying together in another city while a child is undergoing treatment, or even how to get basic medical care in a vulnerable community. The organization works to improve and expand its core programs, develop new services to address the unique needs of the communities it serves, and celebrate the diversity of the donors who make these services possible.

Echo devices, powered by Volara, enable the real-time management of family conversations — whether greeting a family with a special custom welcome message, routing a task to staff, providing directions to the nearby hospital, or just keeping guests apprised of what is happening at the House.

“We collaborated with RMHCDC and Volara to ease the hardship of children’s illness on families,” said Liron Torres, director and general manager of Alexa Smart Properties. “Leveraging Alexa’s voice AI to make lives just a little simpler, patients and their families can settle in to their home away from home, knowing they will be taken care of.”

Contactless Engagement = Health and Safety

“The families staying at the Ronald McDonald House of Washington, D.C., have so much on their minds,” said David Berger, CEO of Volara. “Amidst worrying about their child’s treatment plan, they don’t have time to search for a dinner flyer or to seek out transportation instructions. Together with Alexa for Hospitality, we are delighted to assist RMHCDC in reducing friction in their guests’ stays and giving their staff the ability to provide a higher level of guest service.”

RMHCDC hopes to bring the Volara-deployed Alexa for Hospitality experience to the Ronald McDonald House® of Northern Virginia on the campus of Inova Fairfax Hospital.

“The Volara team has been incredibly responsive and helpful throughout the process thus far,” Quillin said. “They’ve guided us through the data collection process and have been more than willing to answer all of our questions with professionalism and kindness. We’re thrilled to be providing this solution to families and creating a unique experience that increases their comfort during their stay at the Ronald McDonald House of Washington, D.C.”

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