Hospitals want to use Amazon’s voice recognition software, but real-world hurdles remain

Amazon Alexa (Amazon)
Hospitals see the potential for Amazon's voice recognition software, but HIPAA compliance is still a big hurdle.

Hospitals from Boston to Los Angeles are interested in using Amazon’s voice recognition software to improve clinical care, but privacy laws and limited engagement are holding back widespread adoption.

Health systems like Boston Children’s Hospital and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles have been exploring ways to integrate Amazon’s Alexa into the clinical environment, according to CNBC, in some cases using it to improve compliance with surgical safety checklists. Silicon Valley venture capitalists are also keen on health apps that could be integrated with Amazon’s platform.

But hospitals are limited by the fact that Amazon is not HIPAA-compliant. The executive director of innovation at Johns Hopkins Medicine noted that despite overwhelming interest, getting patient and clinician buy-in has been difficult so far.

Healthcare innovators have expressed interest in pairing voice recognition software and machine learning to help diagnose difficult-to-detect illnesses like post-traumatic stress disorder. Researchers have also wondered if voice recognition could reduce the burden of EHRs for physicians.

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Meanwhile, Amazon has already begun marketing its Echo devices for older patients with dementia and has partnered with Merck & Co. to develop voice-enabled solutions for people which chronic conditions like diabetes.