Paging Doctor Alexa

doctor alexa

Smart technology is rampant for the home, but it is also seeping into other industries, including transportation, energy, hospitality, and even healthcare. Who else to lead this “smart healthcare” revolution than the current leader in smart home technology: Amazon.

The first thing to note is that in the early summer of 2018, Amazon acquired the online pharmacy PillPack (for around $1 billion). Amazon is a large company with a lot of reach and influence; its calculated move into the healthcare space has left other companies in the industry scrambling and rethinking how the future will look. Some companies will merge, some will be bought out, and some will find creative ways to form alliances.

Of course, Amazon, besides its retail ability, is a formidable player in the technology space currently giving both Google and Apple solid competition. They are very focused on their smart technology right now, and there is even an indication that they are working on making that technology more relevant in the healthcare space. If Amazon is working on it, you can be sure that other technology companies will be looking to do the same while other healthcare companies will be open to those partnerships as a way to compete with Amazon.

As this new opportunity unfolds, Amazon is setting the stage for its healthcare domination through teams that develop programs for Alexa, its personal assistant. Rumor has it that the latest team is focused on health and wellness, such as providing smart home services to those with diabetes or new parents. Of course, the team will have to ensure that any and all healthcare services that Alexa provides is within the industry’s regulations and follows data privacy laws, outlined by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). This concept of digital health might make some people cringe, but it can also allow increased access to useful and life-changing health and wellness information. This team can help review and vet that information that is offered so that it is not erroneous.

Getting things up to regulation will be the biggest stand off for any digital health integrations. Amazon will have to make sure that their own offerings are within compliance, and they will have to be careful when working with and enabling third-party apps. Without regulatory approval, Amazon will not be able to share or upload any person’s personal health data, which would make it impossible for their apps or Alexa devices to talk with professionals in the medical field or with patients. That lack of communication will make Amazon’s digital health offerings sub-par and nothing that they could feature to help them stay ahead of their competition.

Pairing their recent purchase of PillPack with this digital health initiative shows that they are serious about expanding into this space, and gives a hint at what might be to come. I feel like the phrase “Alexa, refill my prescription” is going to be in the future of many households.

What do you think: would you trust Amazon to handle your medical information?

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Julie is totally technology driven. She is an early adapter, getting the newest devices first and loves seeing how they work. She is the first one called when her friends need help setting up networks, new computer systems, printers and cool home automation devices. She loves being the token "dork" in her group of friends.