Originally published on the MNG Health Blog
This holiday season, Amazon reported record-breaking sales of millions of Alexa-powered Echo and FireTV devices. In fact, the Echo Dot was the best-selling product from any manufacturer in any category across all of Amazon. It was also reported that consumers purchased 6.8 million Google Home devices between October and December of 2017.
But HCPs are technology-averse, right? Wrong. In 2017, DRG reported that 23% of physicians use devices like Alexa in a professional setting. They enjoy using the devices to save them time and to keep their hands free. “I ask specific, clinically related questions that I need information on,” said one respondent. Another, “It helps that I do not have to take off my gloves.” As of publication, there are 842 Alexa skills for “health” but only 37 for “medicine.”
As these numbers continue to rise, the possibilities seem endless. Many healthcare providers are open to using a voice assistant to quickly check drug information like dosing, contraindications, and costs. “It would have to come from a reputable source,” said Rebecca Gretsch, a bone marrow transplant nurse at the University of California, San Diego Medical Center. Others are interested in how a voice assistant could read charts or interact with centralized patient monitoring.
Of course, if Alexa or similar devices are going to truly act as virtual assistants for HCPs, protecting patient health information will be critical. While Alexa is not compliant yet, HIPAA Journal stated last October, “that could soon change.” The publication was transparent on what it would take: “All the basics are all in place, but until Alexa, and the Lex platform on which it is based, incorporate appropriate safeguards to meet the requirements of the HIPAA Security Rule, the voice recognition technology will not be able to be used by HIPAA-covered entities in conjunction with protected health information.” With that clear direction and Amazon’s investment in the adoption of Alexa, it could be a matter time before we can feel confident in the compliance of these devices.
This is an exciting opportunity for pharma marketers to take control of a conversation that’s being had in a new medium. If you’re working on a brand, you should think about the questions HCPs are likely to ask about your product and know what kind of answers they’re likely to get. Think about developing branded and unbranded Alexa skills that are useful to HCPs. Most importantly, think about how this fits into the HCP’s overall experience with your brand.