Your Echo’s next task is to answer medical questions like, “Alexa, when is my next prescription refill?”
Amazon (AMZN) has partnered with some of the medical industry’s leading providers—including Cigna and Livongo—to launch its first ever round of medical skills. The invite-only program has already been tested in patients’ Cedars-Sinai hospital rooms, giving them the ability to ask Alexa for services like booking appointments, accessing hospital post-discharge instructions and checking on the status of their prescription delivery.
The pilot program—which is compliant with the regulating body Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)—marks Amazon’s first true expansion into the medical field, a departure from its popular smart home-first Alexa approach. “These skills are just the first step in making it easier for customers to manage their healthcare needs using just their voice—we’re excited to see what developers build next,” the company said in a statement.
While the heavily-regulated medical industry is on board with Alexa’s bedside manner, it remains to be seen whether or not voice assistants will become the future of automated medical services.
As New York City-based family and ER doctor Janette Nesheiwat told Observer, the sensitive nature of private medical information will always be a priority for care providers, but when used efficiently, innovative tools like Alexa can help improve patients’ quality of life. “When we make it easier for them, they are more likely to engage in their own care,” Nesheiwat explained.
Technology-driven tools like Alexa “allow for more accuracy, efficiency and organization of information,” Nesheiwat continued. “Less wait, frustration, errors and faster service tend to provide better patient outcomes.”
AI-enabled interactive medical tools, such as Alexa’s medical skills, can provide better patient outcome via their improved compliance. This efficiency typically helps develop a stronger bond and rapport between patients and their doctors. Given the prevalence of AI-based assistance in many patients’ lives already, using a familiar tool can improve their treatment’s experience.
At the end of the day, Nesheiwat stresses that participating in voice assistant-powered care should be yet another medical choice made by patients and determined by what best fits their needs.