Anthem launching enhanced version of its Alexa skill in 13 commercial markets

Anthem is launching an enhanced version of its Amazon Alexa voice assistant skill across 13 of its commercial insurance markets. 

The Anthem Skill allows members to ask Alexa for assistance with several common requests, such as scheduling a call with an Anthem customer service agent or ordering prescription refills.  

Members can also seek further information about their health plans, including how close they are to meeting their deductible or the balance in their health savings account or health reimbursement account. 

RELATED: Amazon rolls out Alexa feature that lets users ask about prescription drugs 

Rajeev Ronanki, senior vice president and chief digital officer at Anthem, told Fierce Healthcare the platform is a perfect fit in Anthem’s broader digital strategy, which aims to both provide the options members want while simplifying their overall experience in navigating their coverage. 

"While it seems like our approach is to provide more options and more digital solutions, at the end of the day our goal is to simplify the experience,” Ronanki said. 

The challenge, he said, is in striking the right balance between quantity and quality, which is why Anthem prioritizes human-centeredness in its digital platforms. 

The skill is available to members with a physical Amazon Alexa device or through the Alexa mobile app. It will be offered to commercial members in Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nevada, New York, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin. 

Anthem Skill pulls from the same pool of data as the insurer’s other suite of digital tools, such as its member portal, so the information offered will be consistent and accurate, according to the announcement. 

RELATED: How Anthem is using blockchain technology to free up members’ data 

The Alexa tool will only pull information related to a member’s current Anthem plan and will not have access to a backlog of data related to prior coverage. It is compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and any information it stores is done so in an accumulated and de-identified way, Anthem said. 

Ronanki said the possible use cases for a voice assistant like Alexa were attractive to Anthem from the get-go, but aligning the platform with HIPAA was a significant challenge. Amazon has, however, taken significant steps to offer HIPAA-compliant ways for developers to harness Alexa for medical uses. 

Anthem uses its own security options with the skill as well, such as voice identification and multifactor authentication, Ronanki said. 

He said tools like this are not for every member, but those that do take to them tend to favor them quite strongly. 

“We wanted to sort of satisfy the needs of a segment of population that is deeply interested in this,” Ronanki said.