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Amazon Alexa Is Now HIPAA Compliant. What Do Health Insurers Do Next?

• Author: Healthcare Team

amazon alexa hipaa

“Alexa, when is my doctor’s appointment?”

“Alexa, is my prescription ready?”

Just a few months ago, our Healthcare Team discussed the imminent possibility of someone being able to use Alexa to access their private health information. Well now, it is happening! In April 2019, Amazon announced new software allowing healthcare companies to build Alexa voice tools that can securely transmit private patient information. In other words, Alexa is now HIPAA compliant. This move will bring the virtual assistant into more homes, doctors offices and hospitals.

We’ve put together a resource for healthcare marketers to download that provides an “Introduction to Amazon Alexa Healthcare Skills.” This PDF shows example interactions for payers and providers along with recommended next steps and frequently asked questions (FAQs).

According to STAT, new Alexa voice tools will “allow patients to use Alexa to access personalized information such as progress updates after surgery, prescription delivery notifications, and the locations of nearby urgent care centers.” The Alexa Skills Kit (ASK) – known as “a collection of self-service APIs, tools, documentation, and code samples” – can be used by healthcare organizations to create products that both receive and transmit patient data.

As of right now, according to WIRED, “only six companies invited by Amazon will be able to build skills that can access sensitive medical information.” Of course, this is sure to change, fairly quickly we might add, as Amazon plans to add more developers to that list in the coming months.

Even if your company has not received a ‘Golden Ticket’ from Amazon, this is something for all healthcare organizations to keep an eye on. Soon, members will be able to use Alexa to ask questions such as “Alexa, what is my deductible?” or “Alexa, email me my latest Explanation of Benefits (EOB).” It’s a good time to start registering invocation words. Amazon provides rules for registering invocation words.

For example:

“Alexa, ask XYZ Health Care what my co-pay is.”

The invocation term is “XYZ Health Care.”

To register an invocation term, you should have or create an Alexa Developer Account. The skill name is the invocation term. Even if the skill does not do anything, it makes sense to at least register these invocation terms to have them for future use.

Amazon has had its sights on reshaping the healthcare system for years now. We’ll be following further developments on the expanded use of their consumer-facing technology closely. At this time, neither Google Home nor Google Assistant are HIPAA compliant. However, they take a different approach to their rules for registering invocation words. Amazon allows duplicate invocation terms, while Google does not. Keep this in mind, as tech giants are usually in a constant race to innovate. It’s a good idea to register invocation terms for future use, or to grab them so that others do not grab them first.

If you have any questions about how to register invocation terms for Amazon Alexa, or how to optimize for voice search, in general, we’re here to help! Contact us. Or, download a PDF of our “Introduction to Amazon Alexa Healthcare Skills” guide.

Header image sourced from Grant Ritchie on Unsplash.

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