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28 Feb, 2022 22:02

Amazon’s Alexa offers healthcare

Virtual assistant to provide remote touch-free healthcare services
Amazon’s Alexa offers healthcare

Amazon has announced its Echo devices, powered by the Alexa AI virtual assistant, can put customers in touch with doctors hands-free via the telemedicine company Teladoc. The company will offer voice-activated medical care at all hours, a Monday press release revealed. 

Concerned users need only state “Alexa, I want to talk to a doctor” in the vicinity of their Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Show device to be hooked up with a Teladoc call center. They can then share their symptoms, though the consultation won’t necessarily be free. Virtual “visits” – audio-only for now, though Teladoc has promised video visits are “coming soon” – will cost $75 for the uninsured. The consultations are available for non-emergency services only, and customers must already have an Alexa voice ID.

Amazon has offered medical services to its employees since 2019 with its “Amazon Care” program, which connects patients with doctors and sends professionals to users’ homes if necessary, and the program has since expanded to cover non-employees, offering in-home visits as well as telehealth services.

The Alexa personal assistant has also deployed medical advice courtesy of WebMD since 2017, and Amazon even operates a prescription delivery service, offering its Prime members “unlimited” two-day delivery on all the pills they can pop. 

However, the Alexa option omits the cumbersome step of actually having to place a phone call, log into a computer interface, or otherwise expend physical effort in order to speak to a doctor.

A Teladoc spokesperson has promised Amazon will not be able to access, store, or record the content of any Alexa consultations. The virtual assistant is infamous for its propensity to “accidentally” eavesdrop on clients when it’s supposed to be dormant, and using humans to hone its voice-recognition services without customers’ knowledge. Those humans have been caught passing around particularly choice recordings, and some snippets have even been requested by courts as evidence.