Alexa Just Became HIPAA-Compliant

Amazon has announced that Alexa is now compliant with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). This is a long-awaited announcement and a big move for Amazon as it expands its footprint in the USD 3.65 trillion U.S. healthcare industry. Voice presents an opportunity for healthcare organizations (HCOs) to gain access to new consumer data and for consumers to have a convenient way to engage in their health needs. But many have struggled with getting consent to manage sensitive health information — until now.

Amazon has partnered with Atrium Health, Boston Children’s Hospital, Cigna, Express Scripts, Livongo, and Providence St. Joseph Health to release new HIPAA-compliant skills. For example, Providence St. Joseph Health’s capabilities allow users to schedule appointments, manage visits, and find an urgent care center near them.

What It Means

HCOs have been experimenting with voice, but most efforts were limited to generic, basic health skills because they were unable to process sensitive health data via this channel. HIPAA-compliant voice now paves the way for HCOs to deliver personalized experiences to their consumers. HCOs should map out strategies to leverage this new channel to:

  • Build connected health experiences. Boston Children’s Hospital moved straight into transitions of care, while Livongo added another channel to its arsenal of patient engagement strategies. This is a step toward improved remote patient monitoring to engage with patients outside of the office. Voice is a hands- and eyes-free device that benefits consumers with mobility or visual issues with options to ask, “Alexa, what is my blood glucose level?” HCOs will proactively monitor health, deliver actionable insights, and improve the quality of care between visits.
  • Make healthy choices more convenient. Voice offers convenience that few digital devices have been able to achieve. Both Cigna and Express Scripts capitalized on the convenience and ease of use to drive healthy behavior. Consumers who track their wellness or order prescriptions via voice will be more likely to adhere to these routines if they only have to speak, versus opening an app or calling for a refill. Instead of logging into a site, remembering your password, and clicking around for 5 minutes trying to enter their health information, consumers will simply say, “Alexa, order refills of my prescription.”
  • Empower consumers across the continuum. The passing of protected health information (PHI) will empower consumers to access their health data and recall information after a doctor visit. After a diagnosis, consumers experience information overload and are sent home with several handouts ranging from a summary of the visit to new prescriptions. Instead of trying to recall all the takeaways from the visit, consumers can ask, “Alexa, what was the summary of my appointment today?” The inclusion of personal health data will also extend independent living, such as through the Libertana app, which sends personalized medication reminders based on the consumer’s care plan via voice.

In the early stages of adoption, the personalized experience delivered by voice will be a differentiator against competitors. What’s not clear: how user authentication will work and how the skills will address privacy in a shared space. What is clear: As an HCO, if you weren’t experimenting with voice before, it’s imperative that you do so now.

Forrester's senior analysts Jeff Becker and Arielle Trzcinski, and researcher Annalise Clayton authored this article, which can also be found here

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of CDOTrends.