Nurx, Amazon Alexa roll out voice-activated birth control reminders, sex education

Women's health startup Nurx has tapped Amazon Alexa to provide sexual and reproductive health information as well as birth control pill reminders.

The startup teamed up with Amazon to launch the Nurx Birth Control and Sexual Health Knowledge Skill for Alexa to support medication adherence and to help prevent unplanned pregnancies, company executives said.

“Our medical team hears almost daily from patients who have forgotten to take one or more pills and are concerned about pregnancy, and in some cases, we need to prescribe emergency contraception for them,” said Jennifer Peña, M.D., chief medical officer at Nurx, in a statement. “We want to give people on the pill new ways to remember and stay on top of their health.”

Along with pill reminders, the Nurx skill will answer patients’ most common questions about birth control and sexual health. The free skill does not require a Nurx account and can be activated by saying, “Alexa, launch Nurx” to any Alexa-enabled device or by visiting the Skills Store in the Alexa app. Once enabled, users can give commands like “Alexa, ask Nurx to remind me to take my birth control at 9 AM” or “Alexa, ask Nurx how the birth control pill works.”

RELATED: Nurx raises another $22M with plans to be profitable by early 2021

More than 19 million women of reproductive age living in the U.S. are in need of publicly funded contraception and live in contraceptive deserts, according to Power to Decide, a nonprofit that aims to reduce unplanned pregnancies. Living in a contraceptive desert means that women lack reasonable access in their county to a health center that offers the full range of contraceptive methods. 

Nurx seeks to make birth control more accessible and affordable by shipping it directly to consumers. The San Francisco-based telehealth company also focuses on what it calls "sensitive health services," such as providing STI testing, HIV prevention with PrEP, at-home HPV screening and now treatment for headaches and migraines.

Nurx recently launched a dermatology line for acne, rosacea and anti-aging treatments. The San Francisco-based company has raised $113 million to date and is available in 33 states and Washington, D.C.

The company bills itself as the largest female-focused telehealth player, having provided over 1 million virtual consultations since it launched in 2015. Nurx now serves 500,000 patients on a monthly basis, according to the company.

In July, the company began providing emergency contraception with urgent care telehealth appointments for overnight shipping. That service, called Nurx Now, offers a more accessible, convenient option for patients who said that having to go to the pharmacy to pick up emergency contraception was a burden, inconvenient or embarrassing. In some cases, patients' local pharmacies don’t dispense the morning-after pill.

RELATED: Women's health startup Nurx brings on executives from Walmart and 23andMe

“By meeting the demand for urgent emergency contraception through access to medical providers 7 days a week and overnight shipping, Nurx is breaking down barriers to sensitive health needs and offering comprehensive care,” Nurx CEO Varsha Rao wrote in a blog post announcing the Nurx Now service. “Our patients who trust Nurx with their ongoing medical needs are also seeking urgent solutions and Nurx Now will provide that, first in emergency contraception with other urgent care options to follow.”

As Amazon launches a growing number of consumer-facing healthcare services, its Alexa skill capability allows healthcare providers such as Nurx to reach their communities in a new way, with voice-activated reminders and patient education, company executives said.

“The Nurx mission has always been to leverage technology to empower patients to be in control of their health,” Rao said in a statement. “The capabilities of Amazon Alexa provide an exciting new way for us to reach patients where they are, to communicate vital reminders and information about their health and healthcare.”

The company is one of the few direct-to-consumer digital health companies that accepts insurance, company executives said. The company claims Nurx is available to 90% of the U.S. population.