Alexa Can Now Refill Your Prescription and Remind You to Take Your Medicine
Amazon debuted a new Alexa skill on Tuesday that will automatically remind users to take their medication and let them refill prescriptions by voice. The new skill marks Amazon’s understanding of the large and growing interest people have in using voice assistants for healthcare.
The new skill combines Alexa’s reminders with their prescription information. For now, only Giant Eagle Pharmacy can operate the skill, but the company plans to add more pharmacies soon. Alexa account owners must set up and connect the Giant Eagle Pharmacy skill to their Alexa profile. They can then ask the voice assistant to manage their medication, setting up reminders for taking the medicine and enabling Alexa to be able to answer if the user asks what medication they are supposed to take when they hear the alarm. Connecting to the pharmacy also allows users to request a prescription refill by asking Alexa.
“We’re thrilled to help our Giant Eagle Pharmacy patients more easily integrate prescription management into their everyday lives with the introduction of the Giant Eagle Pharmacy skill,” Giant Eagle senior vice president of pharmacy Jim Tsipakis said in a statement. “We’re passionate about making care as accessible as possible for our patients, and this unique collaboration with Amazon has enabled us to utilize voice technology to do just that.”
Amazon made a point of highlighting that Alexa is HIPAA compliant and as secure as possible. Accessing the skill requires a voice profile for Alexa to recognize as well as a passcode. The records of interactions with the skill are also redacted to protect the privacy of patients and users can delete them like any other Alexa recording. After a summer with so many voice assistants facing privacy complaints, the focus on security regarding medical information is likely necessary to forestall others from raising concerns.
Voices for Healthcare
People are eager to use voice assistants for healthcare. Amazon noted in the announcement that they’ve found many people who were already using Alexa to set reminders for using medication and tracking their health and there’s data to back that up. More than half of all U.S. consumers want to apply voice assistants to healthcare according to the recent Voice Assistant Consumer Adoption Report for Healthcare 2019 developed by Voicebot and Orbita. While only 7.5% of consumers have actually used the technology for healthcare, the interest is very high. Most of those who have used voice assistants for health in some way are under 30, but its people between 45 and 60 who are the most enthusiastic about the potential.
Companies have already arisen to try and meet that need, but they could face some new competition if developers start building devices to take advantage of the new Alexa skill. LifePod, for instance, sells a unique iHome smart speaker aimed at helping aging or socially isolated people. The ‘proactive’ voice assistant in the smart speaker is able to initiate conversations with its owner about health routines and keep caregivers updated in real-time. Then there’s Pria, a voice-activated robotic companion created by Pillo Health and Stanley Black & Decker that launched in October. Pria combines a smart display and voice assistant with a pill dispenser to help people with chronic conditions maintain their medication schedule.
“This will make it easier for others to complete with Pillo,” Voicebot editor-in-chief Bret Kinsella said. “Device OEMs can just build the dispenser and Alexa can take care of the rest. I suspect Pillo is going to get some low-cost competition very soon based on this new Alexa feature.”