Amazon’s Alexa is about to become your personal doctor

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Alexa, the Amazon virtual assistant increasingly found in senior living communities across the country, now is capable of transmitting and receiving protected health information, Amazon announced Thursday.

This will allow patients to use Alexa to access communications from their doctors following surgery, notifications of prescription deliveries and receive messages to help maintain healthy habits and medicines adherence.

Amazon will provide its HIPAA-eligible environment to voice app developers to create healthcare skills for Alexa.

Amazon says Alexa's "HIPAA-eligible environment" is now invite-only to potential healthcare developers, but there are already six skills available to those who trust the company to handle information about their prescriptions, blood sugar levels, and post-operation recovery status.

Boston Children's Hospital: The Enhanced Recovery After Surgery skill gives parents of young patients the ability to update caregivers on a patient's progress following surgery and access appointment information.

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The new skills are part of an invite-only program that Amazon said allows only select covered entities and business associates subject to HIPAA (the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) to create specialized skills for healthcare-related services.

One of the six companies involved in the program is Atrium Health (formerly Carolinas HealthCare System), with a care continuum that includes nursing homes, home healthcare and hospice and palliative care.

It has created a program that lets patients in North and SC find an urgent care center or hospital location and schedule an appointment.

Members of Livongo, a digital health company for people with chronic conditions, can even ask Alexa to read out their latest blood glucose readings.

"Voice is going to be a big part of the future in all areas of our lives, including health and healthcare", Providence St. Joseph Health Chief Digital Officer Aaron Martin said in a news release emailed to Becker's Hospital Review. Patients will also get personalized health suggestions from Alexa. In June, the company acquired online pharmacy PillPack, a move that sent a shudder across stocks of pharmacy chains, drug distributors and pharmacy-benefit managers.

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