Technology is becoming a large part of the healthcare industry. From electronic records to state-of-the-art medical equipment, medical professionals have more tools than ever to provide patients with the best possible care. Now, Amazon’s Alexa is on its way to being an invaluable medical tool. This voice-controlled smart device has been changing the way people search, play music, and overall control their homes and offices since its initial release. Now for the first time, Amazon just announced that the Alexa is learning a few medical skills as well. These skills will be able to help medical professionals, patients, and their families in countless ways. Here is what you need to know about Amazon Alexa’s new medical skill set.
Amazon Announces Alexa’s New Skills
In April of 2019, Amazon announced that the Amazon Skills Kit would now allow select developers to create healthcare skills for the Alexa voice assistant. Because these skills could involve personal data about patients, Amazon created an invite-only program to ensure all professionals working on the skills were under the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). Amazon also stated that they plan to eventually open the capabilities to other developers. However, with something as sensitive as medical data, Amazon knows it is important to ensure all precautions are being taken at all times.
What Can Alexa Do for Patients and Providers?
So far, Alexa has acquired a collection of new skills that work to meet the needs of each healthcare provider that created them. Some of the latest medical skills include:
- Offering Health Advice: Livongo, a digital health company that specializes in creating experiences for individuals with chronic conditions, created a skill that allows consumers to use Alexa to track their blood sugar trends, be reminded of their last reading, and even receive Health Nudges personalized to them.
- Monitoring Healthcare Goals: With Alexa, eligible employees at Cigna, a global health service company, can track and manage their own health goals and earn personalized wellness incentives through the technology.
- Sending Recovery Updates: Boston Children’s Hospital created a skill that lets parents and caregivers of children in their Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) program provide updates to the child’s care team through the Alexa. This skill allows caregivers to receive information on upcoming post-op appointments.
- Tracking Prescriptions: Express Scripts, a leader in prescription delivery, has created a skill for Alexa that allows the voice technology to check the status of home delivery prescriptions. Customers can also turn on Alexa notifications to receive updates when their prescriptions have shipped.
- Scheduling Appointments: Providence St. Joseph Health, a healthcare system spanning seven states, used Alexa to create a skill to help customers find the closest urgent care system and create a same-day appointment. Atrium Health has created a similar skill to help its North and South Carolina patients find one of its 900 care locations and schedule a same-day appointment using the voice-command technology.
Amazon Addresses Security Concerns
Like with any new technology, there have been a variety of concerns voiced about how secure these new skills are. Customers and patients are unsure if Alexa should be trusted with information as private as medical records. Others are worried about what happens if the technology is hacked into or stolen. Amazon has addressed these concerns stating that several layers of security have been applied to all sensitive data. Additionally, another set of security requirements have been applied to all data to ensure it is HIPAA compliant.
Technology Continues to Change Healthcare
Technology has allowed healthcare to advance dramatically over the past few decades. These new developments make working in healthcare easier and more rewarding than ever. Medical professionals are able to diagnose and treat patients more effectively and efficiently than ever before. This makes it an exciting time to pursue a career in the medical field as a medical assistant, nursing assistant, or patient care technician. In these roles, medical professionals have the chance to utilize the latest medical devices and stay on the cutting edge of healthcare technology.