Dr Amazon is in the house: Alexa is now able to manage your health

Alexa just earned its medical license

Alexa earns its medical license
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Alexa's already taken over the home - now it's coming for your health. Amazon has announced that its voice assistant just became HIPPA-compliant. Translation: it's now able to handle sensitive healthcare information.

Under HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), Amazon can now spark up partnerships with healthcare providers to build Alexa skills that manage patient health data.

Amazon's rolling out an invite-only program to get developers involved, but it's already launched six new skills - available today - that let users do things like check the status of prescriptions, book doctor appointments and find urgent care centers nearby - all by talking to their Amazon Echo.

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Members of Livongo, a digital health company for people with chronic conditions, can even ask Alexa to read out their latest blood glucose readings. Meanwhile a new skill from Boston Children's Hospital lets parents and caregivers ask Alexa for updates on recovery progress and other information.

This is a huge step forward for Alexa, which is slowly bleeding out of the smart home and into other areas of our lives. HIPPA compliance will give Amazon the edge over Google, Apple and others as it continues to try and dominate the world of voice search.

And it's an obvious fit: voice can be a hugely enabling technology for seniors and people with disabilities in particular.

At the same time, this will raise a lot of questions about data security - particularly as Amazon doesn't have a perfectly clean record here. Amazon says all this data is fully encrypted, and obviously complies with all the necessaries to be HIPPA-compliant.

Nonetheless, whether or not you make use of Alexa's expansion into healthcare will come down to how comfortable you are letting Amazon handle this data.

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