The “Amazon effect” has certainly taken hold of healthcare, as Amazon’s entrance in 2018 triggered a frenzied push by healthcare participants to find new ways to innovate and compete. Amazon’s newest breakthrough involves Alexa (Amazon’s voice assistant) becoming HIPAA compliant. Such a shift may result in a more immediate impact for patients, because Alexa will now be able to directly manage people’s health information. Now that Amazon has a new ability to sign agreements with healthcare providers under HIPAA, the company announced that “six new Alexa healthcare skills from industry-leading healthcare providers, payers, pharmacy benefit managers, and digital health coaching companies are now operating in our HIPAA-eligible environment.” Let’s take a look at these.
Six New Alexa Healthcare Skills
Alexa serves as a conduit for access to the programs and apps below.
- Providence St. Joseph Health’s Swedish Health Connect assists customers in finding an urgent care center near them and in scheduling a same-day appointment.
- Atrium Health has also created a similar tool that allows patients in North and South Carolina to find and schedule a same-day appointment at a nearby urgent care facility.
- Express Scripts now enables its members to check the status of and receive notifications about their home delivery prescriptions.
- Boston Children’s Hospital introduced its My Children’s Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) program to allow parents to communicate with providers by providing updates on their child’s recovery, as well as receive information on post-op appointments.
- Cigna Health Today allows eligible employees of some of the health plan’s larger clients to manage health improvement goals in order to earn personalized wellness incentives.
- Livongo members now have the ability to look up their blood sugar readings and measurement trends, as well as receive personalized health guidance.
Understanding the Impact of Amazon
As most know by now, Amazon’s technology is ubiquitous, and HIPAA compliance enables the technology giant to move from the outskirts of the healthcare frontier to a patient’s living room or a doctor’s office. Expect more healthcare participants, whether they are payers, hospitals, clinicians, or other players, to be emboldened to share more sensitive patient information and embed Alexa into new clinical pathways. As Alexa’s technology begins to be ingrained into healthcare delivery, several immediate impacts will be evident. The continuum of care, enabled by providers’ new ability to monitor patients remotely, will begin in the home. Additionally, costs will likely decrease as patient access, education, and compliance improve. In the long term, Amazon will continue to push the healthcare industry as it searches for opportunities to entrench new innovations. Most likely, Amazon will look to expand HIPAA compliance to more of its offerings and fully integrate new services like its recently acquired PillPack.
How will the industry catch up to Amazon? Many of the nontraditional participants and new entrants in healthcare will need to make their own services and technologies HIPAA compliant as well. As has been the case in other sectors, innovation and new technologies in particular will continue to rapidly change in healthcare. To be successful, healthcare organizations will need to determine the best way to embrace and rapidly implement emerging innovations like Alexa. Perhaps Alexa itself will soon have the answers about how to do so.