- Amazon's foray into the healthcare space is expanding, as the commerce giant has reportedly launched a health & wellness team within its Alexa voice-assistant department, CNBC reports.
- The team is tasked with boosting Alexa's healthcare-related items, such as chronic disease management. In addition, they are reportedly being asked to help navigate HIPAA regulations.
- Cigna recently launched an Amazon Alexa "skill" aimed at increasing consumer health literacy, and Mayo Clinic last year developed an Alexa program to give basic first aid advice.
The team's establishment shows Amazon continues to be interested in the healthcare field. Despite recent news that it is dropping its plan to distribute pharmaceuticals to hospitals, Amazon is exploring expansion of medical supply delivery. Earlier this year, the company hired a physician who had run Iora Health clinics in Seattle, though his role with Amazon was not disclosed.
Smart speakers are set to have explosive growth in the coming years. Currently the U.S. spends $2 billion per year on the devices, but that number is set to grow to $40 billion in four years, CNN reports.
Smart speakers hold promise in the health field. They are increasingly being used to help specific populations like seniors and people with disabilities. Amazon's move to form a healthcare team within its voice assistant division shows it is trying to boost the role Alexa may play in the future of healthcare. It's not the first attempt. Last year, Amazon teamed with Merck to spur development of mobile apps that use Alexa to help patients manage Type 2 diabetes.
Amazon, J.P. Morgan and Berkshire Hathaway are in planning mode for their effort to form a new company aimed at bringing down healthcare costs. Berkshire CEO Warren Buffett said at a recent shareholder meeting that a CEO would be appointed in the coming months.
Amazon did not respond to Healthcare Dive's request for confirmation in time for publication.