As you all aware, technology changes at an incredibly rapid pace. Governments, on the other hand, don’t move nearly at the same speed. But there are times when government rules and/or regulation will need to be able to adapt to the changing pace of technology. All of us rely heavily on technology in our day-to-day lives, and technology plays a big role in helping us ensure that we are healthy. Which is why Amazon will be offering services through Alexa to help you get answers to sensitive healthcare questions. That said, Amazon was able to ensure that the Alexa skill would be compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), so that you can ask Livongo for your last blood sugar reading.
This is pretty cool though, isn’t it? It’s very much the future, but it also seems like this is something we should have had in place ages ago. That isn’t a slam against Amazon. In fact, it demonstrates the foresight to be able to see the gap in the industry and ultimately fill it. This is how we will get all of our information in the future, I suspect.
Amazon says that Alexa’s HIPPA-eligible environment is currently available through invitation-only for potential healthcare developers. Amazon already has six skills available to those who trust the company to handle information about their prescriptions, their blood sugar levels and even post-operation recovery status. But this is what we want isn’t it? At least in the sense of having all this information in a convenient location where you can access it all at once. Or, get updates about your next appointment. Let’s say you’ve had surgery recently. Instead of having to constantly call your doctor, those appointments could be handled by Alexa and all you would need to do is get an update. I mean, this might sound pretty simple, but think of the hassles and the headaches that it would prevent.
And that’s what Boston’s Children’s Hospital is doing. In fact, they have a skill called My Children’s Enhanced Recovery After Surgery, which allows you to provide recovery updates and get information on follow-up appointments. In addition, Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefit management organization in the United States, has a skill that lets you ask about details on prescription orders. Lastly, the digital health startup Livongo’s skill lets you ask about blood sugar readings.
Is this something that people would want? Is this something that would catch on? More specifically, is this something that we will start to see in other forms of technology? Wearables for example?
The one thing that Amazon will have to do is ensure that it can keep user data private. Over the last few years, we have seen more and more companies fall short when it comes to data breaches. We know that these tech companies need to step up their game, but as consumers, we have to think carefully about the kinds of information that we’re handing over. My father’s generation is still the kind who doesn’t trust banks, and would rather do all his transactions with cash, but we are far past that time. We are elbow deep in big data, so the next step is not to put barriers in place that would prevent technology from advancing, but rather to ensure that companies have enough security and support in place to prevent anything major from happening.