HIPAA-Compliant Smart Speakers Could Disrupt Healthcare

Amazon Alexa is HIPAA-compliant. And as the healthcare industry continues to embrace AI technology, the implications are huge.

Smart speakers like Alexa, Siri, and Google Home offer numerous benefits for patients and healthcare organizations alike. But none of the progress is possible without first establishing that protected health information (PHI) is genuinely secure.

Now that Amazon can legitimately tout their security encryption technology, healthcare organizations are faced with an unprecedented opportunity for innovation. Here are just a few of the questions and considerations that arise from a partnership between the healthcare sector and smart speaker manufacturers.

“Alexa, how can you help my patients?”

AI and smart speakers like Alexa have the potential to make a revolutionary impact on clinical decision-making. One of the most significant breakdowns in quality of care is the continuity of information between the provider and the patient. Smart speakers can improve follow up care because they make it easier for the patient to engage with their healthcare providers regularly. The data smart speakers can capture gives diagnostics and treatment decisions a head start.

Ordinarily it would be impossible for healthcare providers to constantly capture accurate data that exists outside the four walls of their facilities. But smart speakers allow patients to provide more information from the comfort of their own homes, without the limitations of business hours.

Since smart speakers like Alexa obtain data in real time as the patient experiences symptoms or makes progress after a health procedure, they empower healthcare providers with more complete information that can in turn allow them to treat patients more effectively. In particular, it could address healthcare disparities by providing new examination and treatment options for patients who are inhibited from accessing care due to cost, distance, or mobility limitations, AI offers a convenient and affordable alternative.

“Alexa, how can you help my practice?”

Continuity of care based on the data collected by smart speakers can improve both patient outcomes and financial efficiency for healthcare facilities. One noteworthy financial improvement can be keeping patients engaged within the network, improving in-network referrals and potentially reducing patient leakage.

Keeping a patient within the same healthcare organization not only improves efficiency and financial performance, it ensures that the patient will receive better care because there is a continuous record accessible to their care team. This record can include their time inside the facility, or their conversations with Alexa at home.

Thanks to artificial intelligence, clinicians’ reach can be extended beyond their physical presence. AI presents additional opportunities to provide better help with an affordable cost structure.

“Alexa, is my data really safe?”

In order to embrace smart speakers and artificial intelligence in a healthcare context, patients and providers both have to trust that private data stays private. Is that something Amazon can guarantee?

The answer is yes, because of the BAA [Business Associate Agreement] and HIPAA policies that Amazon has in place. Amazon captures their data in an extremely secure manner. Just because smart speakers are now being used for health applications does not mean that the information is any less secure.

In order to become HIPAA compliant, businesses must assess security risks and prove they have developed the appropriate technical safeguards. While Amazon’s encryption may be airtight, it will take time for the public to feel confident that their information is secure, since trust is a more difficult hurdle to clear than technical security.

“Alexa, what should I do now?”

Healthcare organizations curious about integrating smart speaker technology into their systems might be uncertain about where to begin.

The healthcare team at Saxony Partners has the capability to build Alexa skills for our clients. As long-time consultants in the healthcare industry, we are comfortable with HIPAA compliance and secure data storage principles. It’s the intersection of what we do best: custom application development, secure data storage, and advanced data analytics.