The Increased Importance of Voice in Healthcare, Updating Our Look at Giant Eagle’s Alexa Skill and Beyond

Mobiquity Inc.
3 min readJan 21, 2021

Last year, before the COVID-19 pandemic, Mobiquity discussed the impact that Amazon’s Alexa voice skill would have for patients managing their medications. One year later, Giant Eagle Pharmacy continues to offer Alexa as a way for patients to self-service their healthcare.

But what impact has voice had on patients in the last year?

Thinking more broadly, digital health has become a huge topic among healthcare providers (HCPs) and life science organizations. Without digital health, many patients would still be struggling to access care and treatment.

Thinking about Alexa specifically, this is an area that’s still ripe for the taking among HCPs and hospital systems.

Is Alexa HIPAA Compliant?

We asked this question in our initial blog last year, and the short answer is still: Yes. Amazon’s voice assistant can manage sensitive health information in a HIPAA-compliant way, representing an important step for the company in the $3.5 trillion health care sector. In 2021, this is even more important as businesses of all kinds work to figure out how they can best use technology to provide safe and convenient options for patients. Post-COVID, nearly 88% of baby boomers and 90% of non-boomers said that they will prefer to use technology to make their lives easier. And this includes healthcare.

Last year we wrote about Amazon Alexa releasing a skill for Giant Eagle Pharmacy customers, enabling them to talk to Alexa about prescription refills, manage their medications, and set alarms to remind them when it’s time to take their medicine. This digital innovation showed that Amazon understood the importance of maintaining patient privacy and is investing in tools that allow healthcare providers to offer HIPAA-compliant skills to their patients.

With the onset of COVID-19, more healthcare and hospital systems are turning to innovative digital solutions to relieve the immense pressure on the frontline heroes who are caring for all patients.

An from Nature Research walks through the benefits, saying, “Intelligent conversational agents and virtual assistants have proven their potential to serve as an intermediary to reduce the burden in the healthcare system for monitoring and consulting the public, through their versatility, accessibility, and scalability for naturalistic communications with the end-users.” The article continues, “Chatbots and voice assistants are popular examples of intelligent conversational agents and virtual assistants. Both enable communications with end-users via natural language, achieved through rule-based dialog or machine learning.”

It’s therefore no surprise that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Microsoft joined forces to create a COVID-19 text-based chatbot using reliable and evidence-based information to assist people looking for basic information. The World Health Organization (WHO) also released a text-based chatbot via a highly popular messaging app, WhatsApp, to respond to public questions about COVID-19. With healthcare, it’s true that if it isn’t secure, patients won’t engage. Patients are protective of their data and aware of security especially when it comes to their personal health information. But with an influx of digital solutions coming to the rescue at the height of COVID-19, trust among patients has greatly improved. In the example between Amazon and Giant Eagle Pharmacy, a mandate for setting up a voice profile and a passcode in order for patients to access their prescription information was required to protect patient privacy. The records from interactions with the skill are also redacted to protect patient information, and users can delete them like any other Alexa recording.

The Time to Prepare for Alexa in Healthcare is Now

So if Amazon Alexa is HIPAA-compliant, and patients are showing a big interest in using it (specifically for healthcare needs), what’s the next step?

Healthcare and life science organizations should start preparing to meet the needs of patients now. Conversational AI and Voice in the healthcare life sciences market is a key growth area for our company. Check out our blog, 4 Tips for Getting Started with Conversational AI , as you start to think about next steps or us directly to speak to one of our conversational AI experts. We have over a decade of voice experience and are happy to speak with you about your digital innovation goals.

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Mobiquity Inc.

Mobiquity is a digital consultancy that partners with the world’s leading brands to design and deliver compelling digital products and services.