Virtual assistants can be extremely useful in the healthcare industry, streamlining daily processes. Amazon’s Alexa is breaking into the healthcare sector by offering six new HIPAA compliant healthcare skills. However, as of now, it is an invite-only program, with six large organizations participating as partners to offer the new healthcare skills.

It is important to note that the HIPAA Privacy Rule, safeguarding protected health information (PHI), established standards in which limits voice technology usage. Amazon uses HIPAA compliant data transfers, allowing them to offer the Alexa voice assistant to select healthcare organizations. In addition, Amazon offers business associate agreements (BAAs) to its’ partners satisfying HIPAA requirements (BAAs are required before the transmission of any PHI from one entity to another).

HIPAA Compliant Alexa Skills

The offered services are meant to manage a patients’ healthcare needs from home. Using voice commands, patients can book medical appointments, check the status of their prescription delivery, and access hospital post-discharge instructions.

  • Express Scripts: members can use Alexa to track the status of prescription deliveries and receive notifications when their prescriptions are shipped
  • Cigna Health Today: eligible employees are able to manage their personal health goals and earn personal wellness incentives
  • My Children’s Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS): caregivers as well as parents of children in the ERAS program at Boston Children’s Hospital can update their care teams on the recovery process and receive information about their post-op appointments
  • Swedish Health Connect: patients can locate urgent care centers in their area and schedule same-day appointments
  • Atrium Health: patients in North and South Carolina can locate urgent care centers in their area and schedule same-day appointments
  • Livongo: members inquire about their latest blood sugar reading, blood sugar measurement trends, and receive insights and personalized Health Nudges

Amazon states, “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.”

Virtual Assistants and the Future

Although currently applications of virtual assistants in healthcare is limited, as technology improves, their application will become more widespread. When incorporating new technologies, covered entities (CEs) and business associates (BAS) need to confirm that the tech they are choosing is HIPAA compliant.