The multitrillion-dollar health care industry is one hell of a market, especially with well over 70 million baby boomers hitting an age when health care is a necessity, not to mention 80 million millennials who are finally getting around to having kids. So, it makes sense that Amazon, which has been investing heavily in experimental health care projects and trials of its signature smart speaker in hospitals, would start creating HIPAA-compliant medical skills for its voice assistant, Alexa.
HIPAA stands for the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, which has two main purposes: First, to provide continuous health insurance coverage for workers who lose or change their jobs and, more importantly to Amazon, to standardize the electronic transmission of administrative and financial transactions.
Amazon ran a trial of smart speakers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in the last year, acquired online pharmacy PillPack for millions of dollars, and commanded its flagship division, Amazon Web Services (AWS), to expand its HIPAA-compliant abilities.
There are some hurdles for companies to jump through to get on Alexa’s health care platform, but a bunch of big companies have a huge start. Amazon launched a site that enables companies to describe the health care skills they have in mind, giving Amazon a platform by which to vet the developers who want to apply to the program.
The program has launched with six new Alexa health care skills from major providers, payors, pharmacy benefit managers, and digital health coaching companies. The biggest is probably Cigna Health, whose users can command Alexa to ask Cigna Health Today for a daily tip.
“With our industry-leading voice skills, we are meeting customers where they are — in their homes, in their cars — and making it simpler to create healthier habits and daily routines. Through our Amazon Alexa skill, customers can simply use voice to understand the full range of their health benefits and receive personalized wellness incentives for meeting their health goals, empowering them to take control of their total health,” said Stephen Cassell, senior vice president of Global Brand and Customer Communications for Cigna in Amazon’s release.
Other commands include the ability to ask Express Scripts where your order is, schedule an urgent care appointment with Swedish Health, book an appointment in the Carolinas with Atrium Health, or check blood sugar results with Livongo.