New Alexa Healthcare Skill Helps Patients Manage Their Medications

Amazon has announced that Alexa has a new healthcare skill that patients can use to manage their medications and order prescription refills.

Earlier this year, Amazon announced that it has developed a HIPAA-eligible environment for skill developers that incorporates the necessary safeguards to comply with the requirements of the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules. Amazon set up an invite-only program for a select group of skill developers to create new skills that could benefit patients.

The new skill is the result of a collaboration between Amazon and the medication management firm Omnicell. Amazon contacted Omnicell and offered the company the chance to create the new skill after it was noticed that many Alexa users were using their devices to set medication reminders. Amazon had received feedback from several users who requested improvements be made to the reminders feature to allow them to set multiple reminders a day to take their medications.

Initially, the new Alexa capabilities will be available to customers of the Giant Eagle pharmacy chain, which operates over 200 pharmacies throughout the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic. The new skill allows patients to set reminders to take their medications, check their current prescriptions, and order prescription refills at Giant Eagle by issuing voice commands to their Alexa devices.

The new skill incorporates a range of privacy and security protections to prevent unauthorized access and misuse. After enabling the Giant Eagle Pharmacy skill and linking their account, users are required to set up a voice profile and set a PIN. Alexa will recognize a user by their voice profile, but they will be required to provide their PIN before any information will be relayed. Healthcare related information is also redacted in the app to maintain privacy and voice recordings can be reviewed and deleted at any time through the Alexa app, Privacy Settings page, or by issuing voice commands after authentication.

“This new technology is just the beginning, as we continue to identify straightforward and easy-to-use pharmacy tasks that voice–powered devices can perform in the real world to keep the patient at the center of care and streamline pharmacy workflow,” said Danny Sanchez, vice president and general manager, Population Health Solutions, Omnicell.

The initial launch will provide Amazon with valuable data that will be used to improve the customer experience. Amazon will be adding further pharmacy chains in the New Year.

Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.