Alexa’s New ‘Check My Symptoms’ Feature Offers Medical Voice Guidance
Amazon has introduced a new Alexa feature to help users who aren’t feeling well determine the reason for their condition. Asking the voice assistant, “Alexa, check my symptoms” will start an interactive audio checklist similar to how WebMD and other online health resources work.
When prompted, Alexa asks a series of questions about how the user is feeling, the indications of illness they are experiencing, and the extent of their pain and discomfort. The voice assistant draws on the Amazon Care health database to work out potential causes of any pain or other symptoms and what they might mean. Amazon designed the new feature to mimic the COVID-19 assesment tool added to Alexa two years ago to help people work out if they might be infected and what to do if they were. The symptom checker simply extends the medical feature more broadly. It’s also very much like the health information tool Alexa offers in the United Kingdom using National Health Service-provided data.
“Alexa can now help you check your symptoms and provide a list of possible medical conditions for common ailments like fever, rash, stomachache, runny nose, and headaches to help you make better-informed decisions about your health,” Amazon explained in a blog post. “This feature is designed to provide information for educational purposes and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.”
The symptom checker is just the latest of the growing number of health-related Alexa features. Alexa only just added the ability to connect users to Teladoc Health doctors by telling the voice assistant, “Alexa, I want to talk to a doctor.” Alexa then arranges a call from a Teladoc doctor on the smart speaker or display for any non-emergency consultation. Amazon even earned Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) certification for Alexa in 2019 ahead of adding the ability to fill pharmacy orders by voice after acquiring online pharmacy PillPack. Demand seems to match Amazon’s investment, 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.