Amazon will no longer support Alexa third-party HIPAA-eligible Skills, which allows patients to share HIPAA-protected health information with hospitals and health insurers through its voice-based Alexa platform.
The company announced the HIPAA-compliant data transfer capability in 2019 alongside the launch of six Alexa Skills built by healthcare providers and other stakeholders, including My Children’s Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS), Livongo Blood Sugar Lookup, Swedish Health Connect, Cigna Health Today, Atrium Health and Express Scripts.
Each Skill was designed to help members, patients and caretakers manage care at home with voice commands.
In an email to Skill users dated Dec. 5, Amazon said it would “suppress” Skills for users on Dec. 9, and delete any protected health information pertaining to their Skills per its Alexa deletion policies, according to Voicebot.ai, who initially broke the story.
An Amazon spokesperson told MobiHealthNews in an email, “We regularly review our experiences to ensure we are investing in services that will delight customers. We are continuing to invest heavily in developing healthcare experiences with first and third-party developers, including Alexa Smart Properties for Healthcare.”
THE LARGER TREND
The tech and retail giant has made plenty of healthcare news this year.
In November, the tech giant announced the launch of Amazon Clinic, a virtual healthcare service that will deliver care for 20 common conditions, including hair loss, heartburn, acne, dandruff and seasonal allergies.
The Amazon Clinic announcement came three months after the company confirmed it would shut down Amazon Care, its services geared toward employers, would shut down at the end of the year.
In July, Amazon announced plans to acquire hybrid primary care provider One Medical for approximately $3.9 billion in cash, though this deal has yet to close.
As of September, the Federal Trade Commission was reviewing the deal. According to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, One Medical parent company 1Life Healthcare and Amazon received requests from the FTC for more information regarding the acquisition.
Amazon has used the Alexa voice assistant for other healthcare and support services. In September 2021, it announced Alexa Together, a subscription service that allows caregivers to assist and remotely monitor aging family members in their homes, which built on earlier Care Hub features.
Amazon also expanded Alexa Smart Properties for senior living communities and health systems last year. The offering allows those providers to use the voice assistant at scale in their facilities.