New developments with Amazon Alexa.

Amazon Alexa has made the lives of its users easier in so many ways. And now this voice assistant device is even helping patients manage their health with what has been touted as a significant breakthrough for healthcare.

About a year ago, Amazon announced that their Alexa Skills Kit is compliant with the US Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which is the federal rule that protects patients’ health information and how it is shared. With a compliant tool like Alexa, select business associates and covered entities (such as health plans and providers that electronically transmit any health information) now have the potential to build skills that are able to transmit and receive protected health information.

Now developers, who are also required to abide by the applicable HIPAA laws, can create skills for Alexa. The invite-only program started with six new healthcare skills to manage a variety of healthcare needs at home using Alexa voice assistant. The skills allow patients to track prescriptions, manage health goals, find urgent care centers and schedule same-day appointments, receive updates from care providers, and access blood sugar readings and trends. These skills are useful for all patients but particularly for senior citizens, children, and people with limited mobility or physical disabilities.

Alexa’s HIPAA compliance could also have meaningful implications for both patient recruitment and clinical trials. Alexa could aid with patient recruitment by acting as an additional avenue for someone to obtain information about participating in a clinical trial. An interested patient might even be able to take a prescreener survey through Alexa – Alexa can ask study questions, then record and submit the answers. With its ease of use, this could expand a recruitment campaign’s reach to potential trial participants.

The implications on study participation don’t stop there. Alexa may be able to promote compliance and improve retention once patients are enrolled in clinical trials. For example, patients could use Alexa to remind them to take medication and complete daily diary entries, or receive motivators for the study. Alexa could even ask study-related questions and record responses. Alexa’s note-taking capability would also allow patients to log their symptoms, reactions, and other pertinent information throughout their participation in the clinical trial. Alexa could remind patients of their appointments, even helping to reschedule if necessary. Utilizing Alexa to make compliance easier and participation more convenient while enhancing the patient experience could help increase patient retention.

Both sponsors and patients have reacted positively to the idea of using Alexa in clinical trials. Patients like the idea of Alexa acting as a companion to help them navigate through a trial. Sponsors anticipate a decrease in the cost of data collection and an increase in the quality of data, resulting in more-reliable clinical trial outcomes. These advantages allow sponsors to improve relationships with patients, thus supporting the overall objective of improved patient health and quality of life in the long run.

For more information on voice assistant in healthcare and additional ways your clinical trials can run more efficiently, contact us.

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