Amazon ends support for third-party HIPAA-compliant Alexa skills
Amazon is ending support for a program that allowed patients to share HIPAA-protected health information with healthcare organizations through Alexa. The news was first reported by Voicebot.ai.
The invite-only program, which first launched in 2019, allowed 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 booking an appointment, accessing hospital post-discharge instructions, checking on 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. As of last week, only three of these organizations had applications active on the Alexa Skills store, according to Voicebot.ai.
“We regularly review our experiences to ensure we are investing in services that will delight customers,” a spokesperson from Amazon told TechCrunch in an email. “We are continuing to invest heavily in developing healthcare experiences with first 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 providers to care for their patients. Last year, Amazon rolled out new solutions for healthcare providers and senior living centers as part of Alexa Smart Properties. The solutions were designed to meet the needs of deploying Alexa devices at scale and will allow the facility’s administrators to create customized experiences for their residents or patients.
Amazon’s decision to end support for HIPAA-protected Alexa tool comes as Business Insider recently reported the company is on pace 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 layoffs announcement, reports indicated that Amazon’s leadership was closely evaluating its Alexa business.
This newest development is the latest turn in Amazon’s push into healthcare, as the company made numerous headlines this year in relation to its healthcare initiatives.
In August, the company shut down Amazon Care, which had been a telehealth employer-focused virtual primary care business. The service first launched in 2019 as a pilot program in Seattle, and it’s unclear just how much traction it had gained before being shut down.
Last month, the company launched Amazon Clinic, which Amazon describes as a virtual health “storefront.” With Amazon Clinic, users can search for, connect with and pay for telehealth care, addressing a variety of conditions that are some of the more popular for telehealth consultations today. Amazon Clinic initially launched in 32 states in the U.S.
I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.