Alexa Is Becoming Your Personal Medical Assistant

Amazon has launched an invite-only program allowing select developers to create healthcare skills for Alexa.

Amazon announced this week a key move into healthcare. The firm revealed that it had launched an invite-only program allowing select developers to create healthcare skills for Alexa. 

RELATED: AMAZON NOW LETS YOU CUSTOMIZE YOUR ALEXA COMMANDS AND RESPONSES

Alexa Skills Kit

"We’re excited to announce that the Alexa Skills Kit now enables select Covered Entities and their Business Associates, subject to the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), to build Alexa skills that transmit and receive protected health information as part of an invite-only program. Six new Alexa healthcare skills from industry-leading healthcare providers, payors, pharmacy benefit managers, and digital health coaching companies are now operating in our HIPAA-eligible environment," reads Amazon's statement.

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RELATED: ALEXA COULD SOON BECOME YOUR IN-HOUSE DOCTOR ACCORDING TO AMAZON INTERNAL DOCUMENT

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The new skills are diverse. Providence St. Joseph Health's skill books appointments, Cigna tracks wellness incentive, Express Script manages prescriptions and Livongo provides blood glucose readings.

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And there is more coming from Atrium Health, Boston Hospital's post-surgery program and Swedish Health Connect. Healthcare is an industry that Amazon has eyed for quite some time now.

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Just last year, CNBC reported that Amazon was working on a healthcare team with Alexa which included observing HIPAA regulations. Amazon that same year acquired online pharmacy PillPack.

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Meanwhile, for the developers, the opportunity is an excellent way to further expand their services. 

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"Livongo's goal is to leverage innovative technologies to create a world-class Member experience. We believe that voice technology will have an impactful role in helping our Members better manage their chronic conditions, and health in general. Speaking and listening are natural communication channels, and voice-based capabilities also allow us to reach people who prefer other modes of communication," said regarding the development Livongo President, Dr. Jennifer Schneider, M.D., M.S.

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"Our Members now have the ability to hear their last blood glucose check by simply asking Alexa. In providing seamless health insights while our Members are preparing meals or about to exercise, Livongo can more effectively drive positive behavior change."

Will it work?

The question next becomes how comfortable will people be with having Alexa know all their medical data. Asking Alexa to open or close lights is very different than entrusting the device with your most personal information.

And there are also the fears of Alexa being hacked. Amazon claims it applies several layers of security to all skill data. HIPAA also comes with its own set of security requirements.

Only time will tell how well-received Amazon's new venture will be. In the meantime, the firm has launched a website for its new skills.

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