Paging Dr. Alexa: Hospitals call on voice assistants, envisioning ‘massive’ impact on healthcare

John Brownstein, the chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, has likewise seen voice apps evolve over the years…the addition of HIPAA compliance allowed Brownstein’s team to take things much further. “We could finally start rolling out use cases where there was a direct connection to the care that a patient was being provided at our hospital,” he said. The Boston hospital’s latest voice effort focuses on helping patients recover after cardiac surgery.

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Leila Amerling
AMAZON’S ALEXA IS LAUNCHING SEVERAL SKILLS THAT WILL HELP YOU CONTROL YOUR HEALTH

Dr. John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, which uses one the the new healthcare features, says that: “From our view, [Alexa’s data protection] makes for great opportunity in healthcare, because what we’re trying to do is make it easier for patients to access information, easier for patients to track their health and easier for patients to interact with their healthcare system”.

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Leila Amerling
Want to message your Children's Hospital doctor? Alexa can help

“Our view is we’re trying to make things as simple for our patients as possible and bridge the gap with how people engage with us in the hospital, but also at home,” John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital, said in an interview. “As these technologies become natural and easy to engage with, it's a great opportunity for us to utilize them to provide to the best possible patient experience.”

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Leila Amerling
Amazon expands healthcare services with Alexa deals

Boston Children’s Hospital is also using the device to allow parents to give its care teams updates on a sick child’s recovery and allow patients to schedule appointments. Livongo, a digital health company specialising in chronic conditions, will integrate Alexa with the rest of their devices, allowing members to query their blood sugar readings and receive personalised “health nudges” on the device.

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Leila Amerling
ALEXA, WHAT'S MY BLOOD-SUGAR LEVEL?

In a statement to WIRED, Amazon said that while the company applies multiple layers of security to all skill data—including encryption, access controls, and secure storage in the Amazon cloud—the health care skills data will be treated differently to meet HIPAA requirements. The company did not specify what additional measures are in place to ensure that users’ personal health information is properly identified and access to it is controlled and properly audited.

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Leila Amerling
Amazon Alexa launches its first HIPAA-compliant medical skills

“Boston Children’s Hospital has long believed that voice technology has the potential to substantially improve the healthcare experience for both consumers and clinicians. We began this journey with one of the first Amazon Alexa skills from a hospital four years ago and are thrilled to participate in the initial launch of Amazon Alexa’s HIPAA-eligible service for developers,” said John Brownstein, chief innovation officer, Boston Children’s Hospital, in a statement.

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Leila Amerling
Hey Alexa, make me a doctor’s appointment and don’t violate HIPAA

Back in 2018, Amazon announced it was teaming up with JPMorgan and Berkshire Hathaway to create technological solutions to improve healthcare. Turns out it just needed to ask Alexa.

Today, the company announced six new HIPAA-compliant Alexa skills are available to help patients and caregivers alike. The new skills come courtesy of healthcare companies like Cigna and Boston Children’s Hospital that operate in compliance with HIPAA, or the U.S. Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996.

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Leila Amerling
Amazon Alexa celebrates HIPAA-compliant data transfer with six new healthcare skills

Developed by providers, payers and other stakeholders, each of the new voice-based services is designed to conveniently bring health knowledge and management into the home.

My Children’s Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS): Boston Children’s Hospital’s newest voice technology tool helps parents understand and follow pre- and post-surgery guidance, as well as to understand their child’s recovery progress and manage upcoming appointments. The skill is currently being implemented at the hospital for patients receiving cardiac surgeries, although Boston Children’s said that it is hoping to expand the skill to include additional patient groups “in the near future.”

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Leila Amerling