Dr. Alexa Will See You Now

With about 100 million smart devices in use worldwide, smart speakers are on their way to being common household items. Users rely on them for things like music, ordering items, and even searching the web for information. Amazon is taking the next step for smart speakers with their new partnership with the National Health Service, or NHS for short, allowing their Alexa users to have access to expert health advice from the comfort of their own homes.

Last week the billion-dollar ecommerce company announced that six healthcare companies and providers (Express Scripts, Cigna Health Today, My Children’s Enhanced Recovery After Surgery program at Boston Children’s Hospital (ERAS), Swedish health Connect, Atrium Health, and Livongo) are teaming up to create a new ‘skill’ that would allow patients to access some of their health information by simply talking to their Alexa-enabled devices. As with any new emerging technology, privacy and security are always a concern, and when health information is being shared, it’s of the utmost importance. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, also known as HIPAA, ensures that a patient’s health information is only shared between the patient and those involved in their care, such as doctors or nurses. Third parties are not privy to that type of information. In a blog published by Amazon, they note that the new feature is HIPAA eligible/compliant.

Customers of Express Scripts will be able to use the new Alexa ‘skill’ to get a status on their prescription deliveries. At Livongo, customers can connect their glucose monitors to their Alexa devices and ask for a current blood sugar reading.  Information about appointments will be available for ERAS program members. This invite-only program is expected to expand to other healthcare organizations in the near future.

"It opens possibilities to deliver care at a distance," said Dr. Sandhya Pruthi, lead investigator for several breast cancer prevention trials at the Mayo Clinic, which has been on the front lines of using voice assistants in health care. "Think about people living in small towns who aren't always getting access to care and knowing when to get health care," she said. "Could this be an opportunity, if someone had symptoms, to say, 'It's time for this to get checked out'?"

Amazon also holds a patent on monitoring blood flow and heart rate through the Alexa-enabled camera, sending your vitals your physician before you even head to your appointment, or even allow your doctor to monitor you once you have returned home. This is just the tipping point in terms of revolutionizing the healthcare industry.

Here at Extract, we help healthcare companies by offering them advanced OCR and automation solutions. We remove the need for physicians to manually enter important data, such as lab results as they arrive. Instead we offer a software solution, HealthyData, that automatically retrieves discrete data from unstructured documents.  If you are interested in learning more, please reach out today.

About the Author: Taylor Genter

Taylor is the Marketing Specialist at Extract with experience in data analytics, graphic design, and both digital and social media marketing.  She earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Marketing at the University of Wisconsin- Whitewater. Taylor enjoys analyzing people’s behaviors and attitudes to find out what motivates them, and then curating better ways to communicate with them.