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Alexa Now Has a Blood Pressure Skill with Omron Healthcare

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Photo Credit: CNBC; An Amazon Echo device with Omron’s Evolv wireless upper arm blood pressure monitor

Omron Healthcre announced yesterday that it is working with Amazon Alexa to offer a first-of-its-kind blood pressure skill. Those who own an Omron blood pressure monitor can set reminders, compare readings, and flag anything that’s higher-than-usual. Omron’s blood pressure monitor sells on Amazon’s marketplace among other channels. Ranndy Kellog, Omron’s Healthcare CEO says,

We have the first (Amazon) Alexa skill to connect to a blood pressure monitor. If you ask for a blood pressure reading, it will look for our app.

The Omron cuff can be paired with Alexa using the company’s mobile app. Users are able to request a reading of their latest blood pressure results, or calculate their average readings and compare levels throughout different times of the day. Alexa can also be configured to remind patients to take their blood pressure. Kellog states that his team worked “very closely” with Amazon to build out the skill, telling CNBC,

My team here who wrote the skill worked hand-in-hand with Amazon’s Alexa and Echo teams to build the skill, test it, and even add new features as Amazon makes them available to health companies. Omron used the Alexa Skills Kit, which includes tools and documentation for developers.

Alexa in Healthcare

Alexa has been developing their presence in healthcare for some time, and it looks like it is not stopping anytime soon. In 2016, Boston Children’s Hospital developed the first healthcare Alexa skill, KidMD, to answer parent’s questions about their child’s symptoms. Last Spring the Hospital began experimenting with Alexa in a variety of ways to increase the quality of patient care and operational efficiency throughout the hospital itself. In the Summer of 2017, drugmaker Merck partnered with Amazon to create the Alexa Diabetes Challenge. The competition offered a prize to developers building Alexa skills that help those with diabetes.

Interest in healthcare this past May was solidified when it was reported that Alexa had created a health and wellness team staffed with more than a dozen people focused on applications ranging from maternity care to chronic disease. This fall, the Seattle Children’s Hospital partnered with the Boston Children’s Hospital to develop the Flu Doctor, an Alexa skill armed with information about the flu and the flu vaccine.

Focusing on the Most Common Use Cases

So far, Alexa’s role in healthcare has been very strategically focused on use cases that are applicable to a wide range of people — the flu and diabetes are some of the most common health issues people face. Skills focused on these larger, and more general health issues, are a great way to help Alexa users feel more comfortable with looking to Alexa as a player in their everyday health and wellness.

An estimated 24 million Americans, or 8 percent of the population, have diabetes, and diabetes is reportedly the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that between 5% and 20% of the U.S. population comes down with the flu each year, and as many as 200,000 people are hospitalized with the flu or flu-related complications each year. And, The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that 75 million U.S. adults suffer from high blood pressure. These are prime candidates for regular at-home blood pressure monitoring. As Alexa further establishes itself as a staple in health and wellness applications of not only its current user base but in the medical industry as well, we are likely to see more targeted Alexa healthcare skills in the near future.

The Race for Healthcare Voice Assistants Continues

Voice assistants of all kinds have developed several useful applications for the medical industry, and hospitals and healthcare providers alike have found that voice assistants can help to increase efficiency, improving the patient experience.

  • IPSoft and Nuance both pre-date Alexa’s participation in healthcare. The Amelia Health Agent is software from IPSoft designed to streamline processes and surface efficiency opportunities with the help of AI.
  • The Dragon Medical Virtual Assistant was developed in the Fall of 2017 by Nuance to help healthcare providers facilitate clinical workflows. The virtual assistant enables clinicians to record patient information in their electronic health record systems on various mobile, web, and desktop platforms.
  • Suki is an AI-powered digital assistant for doctors that focuses on alleviating administrative work like medical charting in electronic health records (EHRs). In the Spring Suki announced the company had raised $20 million to fuel further development.

Healthcare is a complex field riddled with federal regulations, and it is in continual need for improvement of day to day operations. Artificial intelligence and voice assistants can change that, and that is exactly what companies like Suki, Nuance, IPSoft, and Omron are looking to do.

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