Amazon Links Alexa to Telehealth Provider Teladoc
Amazon Alexa can now connect users to doctors through their Echo smart speakers thanks to a new partnership with telemedicine giant Teladoc Health. Telling the voice assistant, “Alexa, I want to talk to a doctor,” will prompt a call back on the device from a Teladoc doctor for any non-emergency consultation.
The new Teladoc Alexa skill works on any voice-supported Echo device, with plans for a video element currently in the works. Patients can ask Teladoc to connect with the company’s call center at any time. Teladoc will then connect with an appropriate and available physician, who will call back the patient on the Echo device. The cost depends on insurance and could be fully covered or cost up to $75 for those without any insurance.
“Teladoc Health’s collaboration with Amazon is yet another step in breaking down barriers to healthcare access,” Teladoc Health chief product officer Donna Boyer said. “By introducing and integrating our virtual first care experience with Echo devices, we are providing an innovative and convenient way for users to connect with a doctor. We are meeting consumers where they are, to continue to deliver value and high-quality care to members.”
The relatively quick adoption of conversational AI by healthcare organizations has been a significant theme of the last few years. There’s a lot of demand on the consumer side as well, according to Voicebot’s research. The percentage of people who have used a voice assistant for healthcare-related matters has risen from 7.5% to 21% in the last two years. Consumer interest in accessing information about illnesses, not least COVID-19, and a growing number of voice healthcare options have helped raise those numbers. Tools like CVS’ app that reads prescriptions on bottles out loud to people with limited vision or the many lucrative clinical voice assistants make it clear that conversational AI in the medical industry is here to stay.
Amazon has been keen to run its own experiments in the field as well, including earning Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) certification for Alexa in 2019 and filling pharmacy orders after acquiring online pharmacy PillPack. The telehealth partnership simply affirms that Amazon will not ignore consumer healthcare as it develops voice and AI features.
“We’re excited to work with Teladoc Health to offer our customers an easy, hands-free way to connect with a doctor,” said Alexa chief operating officer Debra Chrapaty. “Whether they’re taking care of their sick child in the middle of the night or wanting to ask a doctor about allergy symptoms in between meetings during the day, we hope this experience will help customers find the convenient help they want from the comfort of their own home.”