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Hey Alexa, make me a doctor’s appointment and don’t violate HIPAA

Hey Alexa, make me a doctor’s appointment and don’t violate HIPAA
[Photo: Harlie Raethel/Unsplash]

Back in 2018, Amazon announced it was teaming up with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway to create technological solutions to improve healthcare. Turns out it just needed to ask Alexa.

Today, the company announced six new HIPAA-compliant Alexa skills are available to help patients and caregivers alike. The new skills come courtesy of healthcare companies like Cigna and Boston Children’s Hospital that operate in compliance with HIPAA, or the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

Now Atrium Health patients in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia can ask Alexa to schedule same-day appointments, while Express Scripts members can check the status of a home delivery prescription and can request Alexa notifications when their prescription orders are shipped. Meanwhile, the Livongo Alexa skill lets people check recent blood sugar readings and monitor their blood sugar levels. Other developers or healthcare companies that are interested in adding skills to Alexa must apply to an invite-only Alexa program to participate.

While this foray into healthcare isn’t Amazon Prime Health, it could be a hint of the future, as it does seem to further the mission of using tech to improve healthcare. The Alexa skills are HIPAA approved, which implies a level of privacy protection, but some privacy-conscious people may still find it off-putting to have Amazon as a gateway between them and their medical provider—or even theoretically in the doctor’s office itself. As VentureBeat speculates, doctors and nurses may some day be able to ask Alexa to add information to electronic health records.

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