Can Amazon Alexa Be Used in Healthcare?

The use of Amazon Alexa is limited in healthcare because it is not HIPAA compliant. But that may change soon. Currently, Amazon’s cloud platform AWS supports HIPAA compliance and its voice recognition technology is looking to being utilized much more widely in healthcare. But, before the real potential of Alexa could be realized, it should first become HIPAA compliant.

Alexa undoubtedly has substantial potential in healthcare. Alexa may be utilized by doctors for transcribing patient notes or for virtual assistance in the doctor’s offices. About 30 million U.S homes already use Alexa. Its technology can easily be employed to monitor patients remotely and it also allows patients to become more engaged in their personal healthcare.

A number of healthcare organizations have began tinkering with Alexa. WebMD has created an Alexa skill to send a number of its web content to consumers through their Alexa devices at their house. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) has attempted to pilot test Alexa’s functionality in an inpatient set up, while not utilizing real patient data. That pilot generated very encouraging results. BIDMC plans on utilizing Alexa in a clinical environment, as soon as proper safeguards have been integrated and when Amazon is ready to enter into a business associate agreement (BAA).

Boston’s Children’s Hospital (BCH) is likewise pilot testing Alexa to deliver information to its medical staff, however, without a BAA, only non-identifiable health information was used. BCH has additionally created an Alexa skill, which they called as KidsMD. It enables moms and dads to ask questions concerning medical conditions and get advice on basic health problems.

 

Merck pushed creators to think of innovative ways how Alexa can help patients suffering from diabetes. The Alexa Diabetes Challenge, introduced in April 2017, was established to help patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, which numbers around 27.5 million Americans.

Effective remedies are accessible, and together with changes in lifestyle, patients can live longer and healthier lives. But, engaging in self-management is difficult for patients, particularly for those who have just been identified as having the disease. Amazon wanted ideas on patient-centric solutions involving Alexa voice recognition technology to help patients.

According to Oxana Pickeral, Global Segment Leader for Healthcare & Life Sciences at Amazon Web Services, HIPAA is a concern that should be addressed before Alexa can be extensively used in healthcare.  She spelled out that the Diabetes Challenge was helpful in demonstrating the potential power of technology. So, Amazon is currently considering addressing the demands of HIPAA for Alexa, as what they did with AWS.

As a result of the work that has been done on AWS, all the fundamentals are already set up. But until Alexa, and the Lex platform on which it is dependent, have integrated  the right safeguards that will satisfy the needs of the HIPAA Security Rule, HIPAA-covered entities won’t be able to use the voice recognition technology together with protected health information.

Amazon is absolutely moving toward the compliance of Alexa, but a BAA must be signed to comply with HIPAA Rules. Otherwise, Alexa may not be utilized in a healthcare setting  with identifiable health information.