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Amazon's Alexa HIPAA-compliant

April 08, 2019

By David Burger

Seattle — Amazon announced April 4 that its Alexa Skills Kit now enables select covered entities and their business associates subject to Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations to build Alexa skills that allows it to transmit and receive protected health information as part of an invite-only program, the company said in a blog post.

"Every day developers are inventing with voice to build helpful and convenient experiences for their customers," the blog post said. "These new skills are designed to help customers manage a variety of health care needs at home simply using voice — whether it's booking a medical appointment, accessing hospital post-discharge instructions, checking on the status of a prescription delivery, and more."

Photo of Dr. Aflatooni
Dr. Aflatooni

"Voice technology could be a big part of what health care looks like in the future," said Dr. Nima Aflatooni, a member of the ADA Council on Dental Practice. "We are interested in seeing if Alexa can really help patients connect to dentists and get more efficient access to care while securely protecting patient information in a HIPAA-compliant manner."

For example, Express Scripts, one of the developers of the new Alexa healthcare skills, enables its members to check the status of a home delivery prescription and can request Alexa notifications when their prescription orders are shipped. Mark Bini, vice president of innovation and member experience of Express Scripts, said in the blog post, "We are trying to make it easier for people to make better informed health care decisions. In particular, we believe voice technology, like Alexa, can make it easy for people to stay on the right path by tracking the status of their mail order prescription, helping us further solve the costly and unhealthy problem of medication nonadherence."

Stephen Cassell, senior vice president of global brand and customer communications for health services organization Cigna, another developer of the new Alexa health care skills, said in the blog post, "We are meeting customers where they are — in their homes, in their cars — and making it simpler to create healthier habits and daily routines. 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."

HIPAA regulations require certain health plans and health care providers and their business associates to meet data privacy and security standards for safeguarding health information.

To learn more about development, visit the blog post, "Introducing New Alexa Healthcare Skills."

Get the ADA Complete HIPAA Compliance Kit to help you design and implement a comprehensive program for HIPAA compliance. This kit comes with two tools to assist you in creating a step-by-step approach:  the ADA Practical Guide to HIPAA Compliance manual and the ADA Practical Guide to HIPAA Training CD-ROM. The compliance manual is a book filled with comprehension and documentation tools. The training guide is a CD-ROM training program.