Amazon is ending support for a program that allowed patients to share HIPAA-protected health information with healthcare organizations via Alexa. The news was first reported by Voicebot.ai.
First launched in 2019, the invite-only program enabled select developers to create and launch HIPAA-compliant healthcare skills for Alexa (skills are the third-party voice apps that run on Alexa devices). The skills released as part of the program allowed consumers to ask the virtual assistant for help with things like making an appointment, accessing post-discharge hospital instructions, checking the status of a prescription delivery, and more.
Amazon launched the program with six healthcare organizations, including Boston Children’s Hospital, Livongo, Swedish Health Connect, Cigna Health Today, Atrium Health and Express Scripts. Last week, only three of these organizations had applications active in the Alexa Skills store, according to Voicebot.ai.
“We regularly evaluate our experiences to make sure we’re investing in services that will delight customers,” an Amazon spokesperson told businessroundups.org in an email. “We continue to invest heavily in developing healthcare experiences with proprietary and third-party developers, including Alexa Smart Properties for Healthcare.”
The Alexa Smart Properties for Healthcare unit aims to make it easy and cost-effective for hospitals and healthcare providers to care for their patients. Last year, Amazon rolled out new solutions for caregivers and senior centers as part of Alexa Smart Properties. The solutions are designed to meet the needs of deploying Alexa devices at scale and enable facility managers to create customized experiences for their residents or patients.
Amazon’s decision to end support for the HIPAA-protected Alexa tool comes as Business Insider recently reported that the company is on track to lose $10 billion this year from Alexa and other devices. In addition, Amazon’s Alexa team was reportedly the most affected by layoffs at the company. Prior to the official announcement of the layoffs, reports indicated that Amazon’s leadership was closely reviewing its Alexa business.
This latest development is the latest twist in Amazon’s healthcare drive as the company made numerous headlines related to its healthcare initiatives this year.
In August, the company shut down Amazon Care, which had been an employer-focused virtual primary care company. The service first launched in 2019 as a pilot program in Seattle, and it’s unclear how much traction it gained before being discontinued.
Last month, the company launched Amazon Clinic, which Amazon describes as a virtual health store. Amazon Clinic allows users to search for, connect to, and pay for telehealth services, addressing a variety of conditions that are more popular today for telehealth consultations. Amazon Clinic initially launched in 32 states in the US