HealthSeptember 08, 2021

Harnessing digital assistants like Alexa to help patients stay engaged

Engaging patients in ways they find most natural and convenient within their daily routine is key to encouraging treatment compliance and ongoing wellness. With society’s growing reliance on voice-activated smart speakers and digital assistants, these devices introduce another way to reach patients where they are.

Nearly 90 million adults in the U.S. own a smart speaker, and data from a variety of studies reveals that close to 50% of consumers use voice technology in their daily routines already. Trends indicate that number is rising, with predictions it will reach upwards of 70% in the future.

In short, “communication variety matters,” explains Jason Burum, VP of Patient Engagement for Clinical Effectiveness at Wolters Kluwer, Health. “Voice is an important way to engage patients.”

That is why Wolters Kluwer opted to partner with Amazon Alexa — the market-leading voice assistant in the U.S., and to date, the only one certified to keep Personal Health Information (PHI) secure — to create a voice assistant outreach option for its Emmi® Care Plan patient engagement solution. Burum discusses the advantages and the challenges of creating voice programs for healthcare with Amanda Goltz, Principal for Business Development for Alexa Health & Wellness at Amazon, in the webinar, “Alexa, open Emmi Care Plan.”

Can Alexa be part of your patient engagement team?

The general public has taken to Amazon Alexa, quadrupling its engagement with “her” over the last two years, Goltz says. If the average person is already accustomed to relying on their Alexa for daily reminders and for learning or “how-to” style interactions, it would seem a natural fit to incorporate health plan reminders and wellness activities into Alexa’s capabilities.

But it’s not that simple.

Concerns over privacy and safety make health-related Alexa apps, or “Skills,” a highly regulated and specialized operation. Amazon, Goltz is quick to point out, is not a medical professional, provider, or expert. Rather the company and its digital assistant serve only as a conduit to connect the customer to a certified medical expert in a safe, accessible way.

Healthcare Skills can, therefore, only be created and customized with a strategic partner like Wolters Kluwer.

Protecting patients and PHI

The Emmi Care Plan Skill that Amazon has built with Wolters Kluwer requires multiple levels of authentication before a patient can access the content on the app. After the Skill is downloaded to a customer’s Alexa, the patient has to complete a one-time account linking verification with Wolters Kluwer. They also have to set a voice PIN that will require that patient’s live voice in order to open the Skill every time they use it. That certifies it’s the right person so that their PHI can be protected.

Before all this can even take place, the patient’s healthcare provider has to prescribe an Emmi care plan to them. Emmi programs can include multimedia videos, patient outreach reminders, and more. Different patients prefer to receive and access Emmi engagement in various ways. Goltz notes that Alexa is an effective option for patients who need hands-free communication while dealing with medications, homecare nurses who are tending to patients, or those who just prefer their voice-assisted smart speakers.

To learn more, watch the full webinar.

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