Voice Technology Creates New Opportunities for Patient Engagement

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Amazon Alexa is now HIPAA-compliant, opening up new opportunities for healthcare providers to connect with patients through voice technology.

Voice technology has been expanding its impact on the healthcare market, offering easy access to medical information plus everything from voice-activated personal care routines to meditation techniques. However, now that Amazon Alexa is HIPAA-compliant, it promises to take mHealth to a whole new level. 

With its new industry-verified privacy credentials, Amazon offers exciting possibilities for home care — and helping patients locate and gain access to their providers — via voice technology. In particular, the growing popularity of voice-activated health searches combined with new medication management services are making day-to-day healthcare more personalized and efficient.

Managing Medications with Amazon Alexa

Beginning in 2019, Amazon has secured industry compliance with six voice features, including voice-activated medication reminders, pharmacy refills, and urgent care updates from certain hospitals.

The capability to refill prescriptions is perhaps the most wide-reaching development in Amazon’s voice-driven mHealth offerings. By cutting out the lengthy wait times that are often part of pharmacy phone calls, Amazon Alexa is offering greater convenience — as well as the chance for patients to take control of their own health. Moreover, using Amazon Alexa for healthcare services feels like a natural next step for patients who already use the device in their day-to-day lives.

So far, Amazon Alexa’s mobile pharmacy capabilities are still limited. They apply only to patients who use Giant Eagle Pharmacy services, although Amazon Alexa has also garnered HIPAA certification with Express Scripts pharmacies, and potential expansions are on the way. In addition to prescription refills, Amazon Alexa also uses medication management tools to remind patients when to take their medications, and to keep track of patients’ medication history. 

How Healthcare Providers Can Take Advantage of Voice Technology 

With its diverse mHealth offerings, Amazon Alexa is offering healthcare providers new opportunities for patient engagement. In 2019, Adobe reported that nearly half of consumers are using voice control for general web searches, and Microsoft found that 47 percent of consumers are using voice assistants on their smartphones to search for local businesses. 

Similarly, patients can use voice assistants to locate nearby healthcare practices. For instance, a user might ask, “Alexa, who is the top-rated dermatologist near me?” In response, Alexa will conduct a search of local business listings, ratings, and reviews, and then report back with a suggestion. 

Taking advantage of voice search means understanding how patients use the technology to access healthcare information. For instance, medical marketers can design long-tail keywords and messaging that closely mimic natural voice patterns, to ensure that their website has a better chance of surfacing first in queries. 

Further, as voice search tends to be most useful for local traffic, healthcare providers can use schema markup to communicate key information — like phone numbers, addresses, and specialties — to search engines. These strategies increase a site’s chances of showing up in local voice searches.

While the expanding capabilities of voice technology may seem overwhelming, healthcare providers who embrace the technology are best poised to meet today’s consumers where they are. Devices like Amazon Alexa offer exciting new opportunities to connect with patients in their day-to-day lives — and help them gain access to critical healthcare services.

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