Alexa is ready for Health Skills. Are you?

John Merryman, Jonathan Patrizio
Publication Date
15 April 2021

Alexa is ready for Health Skills. Are you?

The growing appetite for voice in the healthcare and life sciences industries

Over the past eighteen months, we’ve seen increasing demand for voice experiences in the Alexa healthcare and life sciences domain

There is an understandably strong appetite for use-cases spanning patient care, pharmaceutical education, general wellness initiatives and treatment adherence, and for improving the quality of life for chronic sufferers. The demand for health-related Amazon Alexa skills is manifest in both consumer situations and in fleet-managed Echo device deployments. 

Furthermore, we are seeing increasing opportunity to help patients both at home and for in-care scenarios, especially for those that are less able to use traditional interfaces such as websites and mobile apps. Notably, the COVID-19 pandemic has also accelerated market interest, with voice technologies providing clear advantages for patient and worker safety via contactless engagement.

Collaboratively, Mobiquity helps to nurture and develop great ideas in our innovation hubs and via our product development team. These are rapidly progressing alongside the much anticipated advances in the Alexa service.

Alexa advancing as a HIPAA-eligible environment

Amazon is making great progress on HIPAA eligibility for the Alexa service, and we are excited to see the advances on this front. Prior to this, developers of Alexa skills had uniformly avoided PHI data due to HIPAA compliance risks. And for good reason: the penalties for HIPAA violations are sharp and impactful and rightly so - HIPAA eligibility is a requirement for Amazon to certify health skills handling Personal Health Information (PHI). 

In spring 2019, we started to see signals from Amazon motioning upcoming advances towards HIPAA eligibility of the core Alexa service. Amazon announced six pilot companies who launched Health Skills in a private beta, invitational launch. This initial launch proved out the concept for HIPAA eligible custom skills, and provided meaningful feature feedback to Amazon to support health skills on a wider basis. The pilot included healthcare providers, payers, pharmacy, and digital health services, representing a solid range of industry skills using voice. 

Helping you create an Alexa health skill

The next big advance came when the Alexa team announced the availability for developers to contact Amazon for the opportunity to develop custom healthcare skills that handle PHI data in a HIPAA-eligible manner. Developers with skills in the program may build, certify, and publish consumer-facing health skills to the Alexa Skills Store. This provides an exciting opportunity to begin tackling use-cases for health skills on Alexa-enabled devices in the home.

For the Mobiquity team, this greatly expands what we can deliver for customers. From envisioning, to design and implementation, this change results in our ability to execute on a much wider range of use cases that include PHI data. 

How this works from a contractual perspective 

Alexa health skills that follow all guidelines and policy rules are approved during the certification process by Amazon. The skills using HIPAA-eligible APIs must meet the developer program’s certification requirements. These requirements include a documented set of HIPAA-eligible APIs for use by health skills. Developers agree to an Alexa Business Associate Agreement (BAA) as a requirement for each HIPAA-eligible skill.

Where to start?

Mobiquity encourages customers to identify use-cases and we can help you pressure test them across patient/provider value, business value, and technical feasibility. Fundamentally, does the use case improve patient care, provide value to the provider environment, and is the use-case optimal and feasible with technology services today?  

Use-cases for voice applications arise across the healthcare journey for improving the patient experience and efficiency or reducing costs for health care providers. The following chart is a starting place to think through where voice might fit into the patient and staff experience journeys.

Mobiquity can help your organization implement voice for healthcare

Are you looking for ways to incorporate voice as a digital product or experience in your healthcare, life science, or pharmaceutical practice? Mobiquity has experts in the development of healthcare/life sciences digital experiences and voice skills using Alexa. So if you’re ready to take the next step, let’s talk.

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