Amazon’s Alexa now handles patient health information

Today, Amazon announced that six health care companies and providers will allow customers to access some of their personalized medical information by talking to Alexa-enabled devices. The announcement marks another huge move for Amazon into the health care business.

The main health privacy law in the US — the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) — typically ensures that health information can only be shared between patients and those in the health care system, like doctors or hospitals. In other words, information like medical diagnoses and pharmaceutical prescriptions are not available to third parties. Now, Amazon says it has created a way for companies to transmit this information via Alexa-enabled devices and remain HIPAA-compliant. It invited six health companies to develop voice programs — which Amazon refers to as “skills” — using their systems. This development was earlier reported by CNBC and Stat News.

“These new skills are designed to help customers manage a variety of healthcare needs at home simply using voice — whether it’s booking a medical appointment, accessing hospital post-discharge instructions, checking on the status of a prescription delivery, and more,” Head of Alexa Health and Wellness Rachel Jiang wrote in a blog post.

Among the six skills that launched today, customers of Express Scripts can use Alexa to check the status of their prescription delivery. Customers of Livongo can connect Alexa to their glucose monitors and ask about their blood sugar reading. Patients of the ERAS (Enhanced Recovery After Surgery) program at Boston Children’s Hospital can receive information about appointments through Alexa. Jiang added that while the program is currently invite-only, the company expects to expand the number of health developers using Alexa in the future.

For Amazon, this is one of its biggest moves yet into the $3.5 trillion health care space. Last June, it purchased the online pharmacy PillPack, and in November, it announced plans to sell software that reads medical records.


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