Virtual assistants such as the Amazon Alexa have proliferated in society, helping people better organize their lives and access information.
When you ask Alexa to do something, you trigger an Alexa Skill—think of each Alexa Skill as an app. Behind the scenes, tens of thousands of people have created and published an endless variety of skills that have been restricted by a lack of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996—better known by its hipper moniker of HIPAA—compliance rules. But no more! New Amazon Alexa Skills allow for HIPAA-compliant data transfers.
Recently, Amazon has added a feature to Alexa that sets it apart from other virtual assistants: Alexa Skills that use HIPAA-compliant data transfers, which has opened the door for creating HIPAA-compliant Alexa Skills. Currently, six companies participating in the Amazon Alexa healthcare program have created HIPAA-compliant skills. Six may not sound like a big number, but those six represent the beginning of a wave of skills that will change the way clinical research is conducted and how healthcare is practiced.
It’s now easy to imagine a near future where we use virtual assistants to track and improve adherence and compliance, report adverse events, or collect other real-world data.
If you are interested in creating an Alexa Skill, Amazon supplies a set of self-serve developer tools. They also have created a simple tool called Blueprints that provides us non-developers with a simple way to create and publish Alexa Skills. Learn more about Alexa Skill Blueprints.