Visit Amazon.com, open the drop-down menu beside the search bar, and you’ll notice something new: Topping the familiar list of departments is Alexa Skills. These are voice-driven AI capabilities for users to select based on their personal needs and interests. Tens of thousands of skills now exist in a broad range of categories. Most are developed by third parties. Skills are now so numerous that Amazon created a skill called Skill Finder to discover new skills!
No wonder. Smart speakers are the fastest-growing consumer tech, with more than 56 million units likely to ship this year. That makes digital voice assistants the most common AI that the average consumer is likely to experience. As of a year ago, Amazon controls more than 70 percent of the voice-controlled speaker market. While some skills, such as those for popular game shows, utilize a paid-subscription model, most skills are free.
This is the consumer-facing side of the booming “voice healthcare” space. On the provider side of this space Apple Siri, Google Home, and Microsoft Cortana are also major players, although Amazon is currently the big dog on the block. Search Amazon’s skills department with the keyword “healthcare,” and you’ll discover skills that deliver technical health information, answers to commonly asked questions, news about healthcare policy, and much more.
Health & Fitness is Amazon’s specific category of skills that include patient recovery and wellness, exercise tracking, and medications. Within the categories of recovery and wellness fall entertainment skills such as music, games, and trivia, as well as other self-care skills like meditation and yoga.
Here’s a sampling of other consumer-facing healthcare skills for Alexa:
- Health Care Genius can answer common questions such as “What is a deductible?” Or “Define “co-pay.” Alexa skills like this one are free for customers to enable, and once enabled, they can be accessed on all of a customer’s available Alexa devices. To use this skill in a different language, users merely need to change the device language in the device settings. Like many other skills, this one contains dynamic content, which is content that is updated by the developer in real time.
- Virtual Nurse provides information about medications, first aid, and illnesses. It’s an AI that can tell us what a baby’s normal temperature should be, how to perform CPR, and the symptoms of heat stroke. It’s a free download available for all major AI and messaging platforms including Google Home, FB Messenger, and Slack. Its developer, Lowaire Digital, invites customers to inform them of illnesses not currently addressed by Virtual Nurse.
- Independent Health. This is an example of a skill developed for members of a specific health plan. (The Sutter Health skill is another example.) Once linked to the user’s online member account, the skill can assist with information about members’ account balances, locations of nearest urgent-care centers, and members’ cost to visit an emergency room.
- Mayo Clinic First Aid provides self-care instructions for dozens of everyday mishaps and other situations and provides quick, hands-free answers from one of the most trusted sources in healthcare.
- Headspace: Guided Meditation for Everybody. Meditation is proven to help reduce stress, increase compassion, and reduce reactivity in people. This skill provides a different guided meditation each day as well as sleep exercises to help users wind down at the end of the day. Users with a Headspace account may link their accounts and add meditations and learn extended meditation techniques.
- Health & Fitness Coach provides facts and tips for staying active, eating healthy, getting fit and building muscle, all geared toward improving users’ wellness.
- Health Affirmations is a skill that provides encouragement to users in need of healing and recovery.
- Exercise Tracker. As the name suggests, this skill helps users keep track of their daily exercise habits while providing motivation, progress reports and periodic challenges along the way. Its one of several tracking skills available among many others that guide users through specific exercises and complete workouts.
- Healthcare News, Zika Health Facts, Weight Loss Tips, Health Nut, and myHealthFacts are just a few more examples of this rapidly flourishing tech space.
- Yoga Lifestyle is one of many yoga skills for Alexa. Integrating inspiring quotations, this skill purports to help users discover yoga’s positive effects on all aspects of life, leading to greater balance and clarity.
But consumer wellness skills don’t begin or end there. For people recovering from illness or surgery, occupying the mind with light entertainment can also support recovery. Alexa skills in these areas are legion, including trivia, puzzles, music, and very much more. Some skills in the Lifestyle category, such as Alexa’s Relaxing Sounds: Spa Music skill, offer soothing spa music. Timed meditations are available with the Mindful Meditation skill. And the Keto Police tells those using a ketogenic diet whether a specific food is keto.
Among the most critically useful skills now available are those that help users track their own medications. These go beyond simple alarm-clock functions to allow users to ask the voice assistant for reminders, for background information on specific medications, and for tracking when medications have already been taken.
From skills that enable Alexa to provide dynamic news content, to those offering smart-home functionality, games and sports, the output from developers is multiplying at a dizzying rate. Healthcare could be the open door that allows digital voice assistants to transform consumers’ lives in truly profound ways.
Earning revenue may be the central benefit to developers for creating new skills but not the only one. Developers may sell premium content with in-skill purchasing, or offer a new sales channel by selling physical goods and services with Amazon Pay for Alexa skills. Developers can get paid for the skills that customers love most via Alexa Developer Rewards.
As a thought leader in tech innovation, tekMountain is paying keen attention to developments in the voice-healthcare ecosystem. In the next installment of our look at digital-voice healthcare, we’ll look at clinical-facing skills designed to improve and enhance patient care from the provider’s perspective. Be sure to check here again for updates.