Alexa Adds 80,000 Answers to Healthcare Questions With Sharecare Partnership
Amazon has expanded Alexa’s medical knowledge with more than 80,000 questions and answers on a huge range of health topics. The voice assistant’s new information comes from digital health firm Sharecare, which has augmented Alexa’s database with answers curated from a mix of medical providers and academic institutions.
Alexa has been a source of medical information since it debuted. The Sharecare partnership widens the variety of questions for which it can reliably source answers to medical questions including when to get cancer screenings, the peak of flu season, and why someone’s feet might always feel cold. The new answers build on Amazon’s existing data sources. Originally relying on open-source websites like WebMD, Amazon has since worked with the Mayo Clinic, Cigna, and other authoritative sources to build Alexa’s medical knowledge. In Great Britain, Alexa even uses the National Health Service (NHS) as a source for answers. For Sharecare, the arrangement brings new attention to its platform of digital health tools, while serving the company’s stated mission of broadening access to healthcare information using the voice assistant.
“As the digital landscape of consumer health information grows increasingly crowded, determining the credibility of that information also can be challenging to navigate,” Sharecare president Dawn Whaley said in a statement. “For nearly a decade, Sharecare has partnered with more than 180 trusted health organizations as part of our mission to help people easily access the latest scientifically validated information to support their overall well-being. And with more than 19 million people in the U.S. actively using voice assistants to seek health information, being selected by Amazon’s Alexa to provide their customers with verified answers from Sharecare enables even more people to access what they need, when they need it, and through a frictionless experience.”
Amazon has been extending Alexa’s healthcare capabilities as part of the general strategy for the voice assistant. Last year, Alexa was certified under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) to transmit health information, for instance, and has been experimenting with filling pharmacy orders after acquiring online pharmacy PillPack. Even beyond Alexa, Amazon has been looking at combining voice tech and health in its new Halo fitness band, which includes a feature called Tone that analyzes the sound of a wearer’s voice and shares how it might sound to others. Healthcare is something more than half of U.S. adults are looking for from their voice assistants according to a Voicebot survey. The ongoing COVID-19 health crisis has only served to expand interest in healthcare through voice AI. Sharecare’s contribution to Alexa enhances its appeal to those who turn to voice assistants for health information, and will likely be used by Amazon to attract new Alexa users in the future.