Hacking Pediatrics - Allergy Food Challenges

A voice skill to help families prepare for allergy testing


The Innovation & Digital Health Accelerator at Boston Children's Hospital hosted a Voice.Health hackathon, where my team was tasked with developing a voice skills based off the prompt "prep for certain procedures (e.g. cast removal, etc.) with instructions and images"

What I did

My team and I developed an Alexa voice skill to help families prepare to return to Children's for allergy testing. Allergy testing is a laborious process with steps that need to be carefully followed, often months after the patient/family receive initial instructions from their care team.

Discussion & Brainstorming

The team began by brainstorming types of problems that could be relevant to voice assistant preparation. We settled on allergy food challenges due to allergy expertise in the group and the fact that food challenges are scheduled so far in advance and require very specific preparation.

Initial navigation flows
Initial navigation flows

We listed the steps that have to be completed in order to have a successful food allergy challenge and fleshed out the problems that arise if patients / families prepare incorrectly. We then mapped out the timline from being seen at Children's the first time, through preparation for the allergy challenge, to arriving at Children's again.


Once we mapped out the specific steps of the process we began writing the script for how the user would interact with the Alexa device. We wanted to design an interaction that would take the burden of remembering preparation details off of caretakers, allowing them to focus on other aspects of their life. We envisioned this voice skill would take advantage of notifications, but since Amazon has put hold on their development, it could be part of the daily briefing instead.


(notification) Susie has a baked egg food challenge appointment scheduled for October 31, at 8 am in the Boston Children’s Hospital Allergy Clinic with Dr. Lee. Would like to confirm this appointment?


Ok, confirming that appointment for you.
Also, Susie will need to stop taking her Claritin tomorrow. I’ll give you another reminder about this tomorrow.
Alexa, can you give me more details about the food challenge appointment?
Your visit will be conducted at Boston Children’s Hospital on Fegan 6 at 8 am. I sent this information to your email.

Susie will eat baked egg muffin in increments, and be observed for one hour after all increments have been eaten.

This visit can be 2-3 hours long. Your nurse will be closely monitoring for signs of an allergic reaction throughout.
Can you send this information to my husband?
Yes, I sent the information to your husband.

Read the whole script.


The deliverable for the hackathon was a short video showing how the voice skill would function. Using a combination of stock video and shots we filmed in the conference room I edited together the below video, attempting to capture an ideal scenario in which this voice skill could help families preparing for an allergy challenge.


What I learned

This project was my first experience at a hackathon and designing a VUI. I really enjoyed working on a team (and learned a lot from working with people I'd just met) and it was interesting to design for voice interactions considering their conversationality, as opposed to in GUI where I'm considering efficency of interactions.

Project Details

Date: Fall 2018
Contributors: Brenna Sorkin, Bill Cava, Julie Whitlow Yarahuan, Allison Scalia, Griffin Campbell
Skills: Voice User Interface Design
Client: Voice.Health & Hacking Pediatrics Hackathon