Amazon to Evolve Alexa into Personal Medical Assistant

When it comes to business operations, Amazon is the king of the hill. But it’s not just e-commerce that has Amazon on top. A week ago, Amazon announced that Alexa, the voice-driven assistant will now handle certain medical information.

For example, Alexa will have the ability to relay and store blood sugar measurements from internet-connected monitoring devices, help schedule doctors’ appointments, pass on post-op instructions from hospitals, and provide prescription delivery updates by securely accessing customers’ private medical information.

In a story, Paris Martineau reported on a statement sent to WIRED from Amazon. In the statement, Amazon said that while the company applies multiple layers of security to all skill data—including encryption, access controls, and secure storage in the Amazon cloud—the health care skills data will be treated differently to meet HIPAA requirements. The company did not mention other plans to ensure that users’ personal health information is properly identified and access to it is controlled and properly audited.

The company has made dozens of high-profile health care hires in recent years. This includes last June’s partnership with Morgan Chase Bank and Berkshire Hathaway to launch a new health care venture. Along with buying PillPack, an online prescription delivery service, for $1 billion in cash, Amazon is also selling supplies to hospitals and medical centers.

Since 2014, Amazon has been running a secretive lab dedicated to high-concept projects in health care, like using machine learning to help prevent and treat cancer. The lab goes by at least three different names, depending on who you ask—including 1492, The Amazon Grand Challenge, and Amazon X—and it has worked on projects related to telemedicine and the development of health applications for Alexa-enabled devices, per CNBC. The group also reportedly spent years working on a tool to mine patient medical records for data to flag potentially inaccurate information and fill in gaps in a patient’s medical history for insurance companies, among others.