HIPAA Voice Technology in Healthcare

Companies such as Amazon are revolutionizing the way organizations conduct business. Alexa’s voice technology has vast healthcare application capabilities that Amazon is working diligently to expand. Voice technology in healthcare currently has limited applications such as describing symptoms, tracking prescription deliveries, scheduling appointments at urgent care, tracking blood glucose levels, and assessing instructions for post-surgical care. However, Amazon believes that in the future, Alexa can be used to diagnose medical conditions including autism, mental illness, Parkinson’s disease, concussions, and detect heart attacks. 

Voice technology in healthcare can streamline business processes, allowing healthcare organizations to focus on treating patients. However, it is important to consider privacy implications when choosing to implement voice technology in healthcare.

Location Matters

The use of voice technology poses a risk to patient privacy depending on the location in which it is used. Doctors may want to receive updates on patients while on the go. Using the technology in a private setting, such as a car, would not pose a privacy issue. However, receiving an update while in the hallway or on an elevator risks patient privacy. 

Dr. Yaa Kumah, assistant professor of biomedical informatics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center stated, “In healthcare you have to [look at] the design considerations and the advantages and disadvantages of speaking. You have to think about some of the privacy considerations of public versus private, and the concept of someone listening to you and also overhearing things that you might not want said out loud.”

HIPAA and Voice Technology in Healthcare

Additionally, when choosing the right solution, healthcare organizations must ensure that it is HIPAA complaint. Many voice technology solutions listen in the background and collect data on users. If choosing to use voice technology in healthcare, it is imperative to implement privacy settings to ensure that protected health information (PHI) is handled in a HIPAA compliant manner. 

Freddie Feldman, a voice design director at Wolter Kluwer Health stated, “HIPAA is a big topic on everyone’s mind nowadays, and it is one we take seriously. The first thing most people think about when they hear HIPAA is securing servers platforms, but there is more to it. We have to consider things like the unintended audience for a call.”

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