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Last Thursday Amazon announced the first set of HIPAA compliant healthcare voice apps on its platform:

  • Express Scripts, a leading pharmacy services organization: Check delivery status of a prescription and set up shipment notifications.
  • Cigna Health Today, a global health service company: Understand the membership benefits, manage health improvement goals and receive personalized wellness incentives for meeting health goals.
  • My Children’s Enhanced Recovery after Surgery, by Boston Children’s Hospital, a leading children’s hospital: Provide feedback to the healthcare professionals and receive information about post-op appointments.
  • Swedish Health Connect, a healthcare system with 51 hospitals across seven states and 829 clinics: Find an urgent care center nearby and schedule a same-day appointment.
  • Atrium Health, a healthcare system with more than 40 hospitals and 900 care locations: Find a nearby urgent care location and schedule a same-day appointment.
  • Livongo, a leading consumer digital health company: Learn the last blood sugar reading and blood sugar measurement trends, and receive personalized insights and Health Nudges.

These voice apps are built with Alexa Skills Kit which now provides a HIPAA-eligible environment to select partners participating in an invite-only program.

This is big. Amazon has finally given an official voice to the $3 trillion health industry. Until these new voice apps, the existing 1,000-plus skills at Amazon’s health and fitness category were mostly about keeping fit, eating healthy, breathing wisely and sleeping better. For the first time, Alexa can now transmit and receive protected personal health information.

Tech giants eyeing healthcare is not new news. The highly regulated healthcare industry may be lagging in customer experience innovation and digital transformation compared to other consumer-facing sectors, but the Big Four tech companies see this as an opportunity to invest in, expand and diversify their revenue streams.

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Google structured its healthcare play around data and AI; focusing on disease detection, data interoperability and health insurance. Apple’s focus is on patient-centric products like Apple Watch, which is proven to be useful at detecting abnormal heartbeats and keeping track of Parkinson’s disease patients for medication dosage adjustments. Microsoft is already a household name in healthcare as the leading provider of hospital operating systems, and the current winner in medical cloud computing with HIPAA compliant cloud solution Azure. Amazon is up there with its competitors; they have been distributing medical devices since 2014, investing in start-ups, and acquiring the disruptive ones like Pill Pack, an online pharmacy startup with mail-order licenses across 50 states in the U.S.

Strategies for brands

There are no doubts major tech businesses are interested and investing in the healthcare industry. However, when it comes to the voice space, these first set of HIPAA compliant voice apps are the first steps of a long journey. The healthcare industry, Amazon and its competitors still have a long way to go to deliver advanced, accessible, mainstream, flawless experiences to patients.

This may sound like a topic to revisit for tomorrow, but the time for brands to establish and act on their voice strategies was yesterday. So if they haven’t already, brands must start building their voice strategy today.

So, where to start? Today’s tech giants, notably Amazon, bring a vast wealth of experience on solving the customer pain-points and satisfy the demands of modern consumers. Modern patients are not different than modern consumers; they want immediacy, personal attention, more control over their health, advanced knowledge on drug facts and treatment costs, and convenient and personalized digital interactions with every player in the healthcare industry.

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Until recently, the healthcare industry was short of delivering this. Business and marketing operations were previously based on strategies built on product-centric, treatment-journeys.

Today, the strategy must begin with building patient-centric models that study the patient experience journey and brand touchpoints from a consumer’s point of view; looking into their needs, emotions and behaviors, and how are they being exposed to, and interact with the brand.

Marketers must also research how the patient is using the medicine, how this treatment is changing their lifestyle, and what it means for them, both emotionally and practically. Then, study the technological appetite of the brand’s target audience, focusing on their digital maturity, acceptance and use of smart speakers.

Once you combine all these insights, you can start building voice strategies and get to work on ideating concepts for voice applications that will provide value to target patients’ everyday lives and turn into trusted utilities that will support strong brand affinity along the way.

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Jem is a multi-disciplinary thinker with two decades of international experience helping blue chip brands make the best use of emerging marketing and consumer technologies. Currently VP of Innovation Engagements and Partnerships at Reprise Digital, he is innately curious and passionate for understanding human behavior, popular culture, context and how consumers interact with media and technology. He loves designing communication solutions that create meaningful relationships between brands and consumers while turning products and services into necessities in their everyday lives.

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