Annie Palmer | The Daily Mail | SourceURL
Amazon's digital assistant could soon do more than just turn on your lights or tell you the weather.
The e-commerce giant has signaled a major leap into healthcare for Alexa, by rolling out an invite-only program for developers to create their own skills around health and medicine.
It would allow users to ask Alexa to book a doctor's appointment, find an urgent care center and check for updates on prescription refills.
Amazon, which launched the program on Thursday, said the skills are all compliant with the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which ensures that personal health care information is protected.
The firm told Wired that it has added extra security levels to how it treats the data collected through these skills, beyond the encryption, access controls and secure cloud storage it deploys for other skill data.
Amazon did not clarify what additional layers of security are in place.
Six companies were invited to roll out skills with the program, but the company expects to add more over time.
'These skills are just the first step in making it easier for customers to manage their healthcare needs using just their voice - we're excited to see what developers build next,' the firm said in a statement.
Skills included in the initial roll out include one created by Express Scripts, which lets users check the status of their prescription deliveries, as well as get notifications from Alexa when their prescriptions have shipped.
Another skill, from healthcare giant Cigna, lets members manage their 'health improvement goals,' as well as earn 'personalized wellness incentives.'
'We are meeting customers where they are – in their homes, in their cars - and making it simpler to create healthier habits and daily routines,' Stephen Cassell, senior vice president of global brand and customer communications at Cigna, said in a statement.
'Through our Amazon Alexa skill, customers can simply use voice to understand the full range of their health benefits and receive personalized wellness incentives for meeting their health goals, empowering them to take control of their total health.'
As many have pointed out, it may take a while before users feel comfortable trusting Amazon and its Alexa assistant to oversee their personal healthcare data.
However, earning compliance with HIPAA is an important step in being able to branch out into this market.
Amazon had reportedly been working for many months to meet HIPAA requirements.
The move also gives credence to larger rumors that Amazon is planning a major expansion into healthcare.
Amazon already sells some medical products on its website, but it has been speculated to be considering offering its own prescription delivery services, among other things.
Additionally, last year, the firm announced it was working with Berkshire Hathaway and J.P. Morgan to improve health-care services.
WHAT ARE ALEXA'S NEW HEALTH SKILLS?
- Express Scripts - Check the status of prescription deliveries and receive updates when prescriptions have shipped.
- Cigna - Manage health improvement goals and earn personalized wellness incentives.
- Boston Children's Hospital - Parents and caregivers can give updates on their child's progress and get information on post-op appointments.
- Providence St. Joseph Health - Customers can find an urgent care center near them and schedule appointments.
- Atrium Health - Customers can find an urgent care center near them and schedule appointments.
- Livongo - Members can get blood sugar readings and measurement trends, as well as receive reminders.