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Can Amazon Alexa Increase Patient Engagement?


Digital voice assistant technology could help healthcare achieve increased compliance with treatment regimens.

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Amazon Alexa could break into healthcare. But will it improve outcomes?

Amazon’s Alexa devices and apps could bring more patient-focused care to help people with chronic disease management by connecting their health data with medical professionals and integrating with other devices and apps, according to a new report from the market analytics firm GlobalData.

The projection bolsters the rapidly spreading idea that digital voice assistants could improve healthcare in various ways. Although Amazon Alexa often commands attention because of its high adoption rates, the device has yet to satisfy healthcare privacy requirements — and the device faces meaningful competition from digital voice assistant makers who are focused only on healthcare. (For a deeper look, check out this recent episode of our podcast, Data Book, which explores the potential and limitations of voice for healthcare.)

>> LISTEN: Amazon Alexa and the Potential of Voice Assistants for Healthcare

In its report, GlobalData examines Amazon’s recent partnership with Omron Healthcare, who’s integrating its blood pressure monitor into Alexa, a vital step for Amazon to bring its voice technology to healthcare.

By connecting with Omron’s Evolv wireless blood pressure monitor and mobile app, Alexa could remind patients to measure their blood pressure.

Amazon also hopes to bring Alexa’s voice technology to help new mothers, the elderly and people with diabetes.

“Adaptation of Alexa voice service in a broad range of healthcare solutions could lead to better patient engagement and increased compliance with treatment regimens (while) freeing some of the healthcare resources,” GlobalData’s cardiovascular and metabolic diseases managing analyst, Edit Kovalcsik, Ph.D., said in a statement.

Omron used the Alexa Skills Kit — a collection of self-service application program interface tools, documentation and code samples — to connect its blood pressure monitor to Alexa. This helps developers to integrate their services with Alexa.

“Despite the wide availability of mobile health apps — for example, (blood pressure) control through smartphone technology, there is a need for additional, more patient focused strategies to improve (blood pressure) control,” Kovalcsik said.

She added that patient engagement and communications between patients and healthcare providers is essential to improving patient compliance.

Whether this initiative will cement Amazon Alexa as a healthcare heavyweight is unlikely. But the partnership could further the company’s understanding of what it needs to do to make voice work for healthcare, adding to its efforts with like-minded innovators such as Orbita.

And if Amazon doesn’t crack that code, Alexa’s healthcare-focused competitors certainly won’t mind.

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