Amazon’s Product Managers Take On Health Data With Alexa

Do customers want to trust Alexa with their health data?
Do customers want to trust Alexa with their health data?
Image Credit: Jeff Eaton

The product managers at Amazon have a bit of a problem on their hands right now. They have a popular voice activated device called Alexa that can play music, look up things on the web, add things to a shopping list and a lot of other things all using voice commands – no typing, no screen swiping. However, Alexa exists in a very competitive market. Google and Apple both have competing products. This means that the Amazon product managers have to do something to make their product unique. They think that they may have come up with a great idea: health care data.

What Amazon’s Alexa Will Be Able To Do

The Amazon product managers want change their product development definition and have their artificial intelligent assistant, Alexa, do two health data related tasks. They want to track customer prescriptions and also relay personal health information. Their goal is to get Alexa to become a part of customer’s everyday health care processes. In order to be able to do this, Alexa needs to be able to transmit sensitive health care information using software that meets federal laws regarding how that data is to be safeguarded.

The Amazon product managers partnered with five companies including insurance company Cigna, diabetes-management company Livongo Health, and a major hospital system. These partners believe that the new Alexa health data features have been created in accordance with the federal protocol. The new features will allow Alexa to track when drugs are shipped to a customer, schedule urgent-care appointments, check health insurance benefits, or even read blood sugar results.

The number of homes that have an Alexa or similar speaker system in them has been expanding over the past few years. The systems were first introduced in 2014 and now one in five homes is reporting that they have at least one of them. The Amazon product managers want to find ways that the use of voice commands can be expanded. The reason that more customers are not using their Alexa speakers for more tasks is due to privacy concerns. Additionally, when it comes to health care data in the U.S. the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) requires that Alexa keep patient data confidential.

Challenges Facing Alexa’s Push Into Health Care Data

Expanding Alexa into the health care arena is not going to be an easy task for the Amazon product managers. What the product managers have discovered is that Alexa customers have been slow to use Alexa for anything besides the basics. What this means is that there are some serious questions as to if the new health care features will end up being used. Alexa has had some issues regarding privacy – in the past there have been newspaper stories about how Alexa recorded a personal conversation that was happening in a room and then mailed it to someone else after receiving some miscues.

The reason that the new health care features for Alexa are so important is because Amazon is locked in a battle with Google and Apple. Amazon’s share of the smart-speaker market fell to 40% after having been at 59%. That’s not going to look good on anyone’s product manager resume. The good news is that the people who work in the health care industry see real promise in what Alexa has to offer. They believe that communicating using voice will be a better alternative for some of their patients instead of having to type or tap on a screen. The challenge is that although health care companies may be willing to move to voice, customers may not be.

What the product managers are finding is that the younger customers are more comfortable using voice technology than older generations are. The Amazon product managers understand that there may be privacy concerns. They are working to deal with these by verifying the identity of the speaker. They do this by using a voice code or by requiring users to log in with passwords for existing health-care accounts. What this means is that customers have to verify their identity to initiate a feature. The great thing about this product is that voice is natural and customers don’t have to download any apps or review tutorials to use the speakers.

What All Of This Means For You

The Amazon product managers have both the best of life and the worst of life. The best comes from the fact that they work for a very successful company. The worst is that they are under a great deal of pressure to keep finding ways to allow the very big company to keep on growing. Amazon’s voice activated artificial intelligence assistant, Alexa, is a big bet by the company. It has proven to be very popular with customers. Now the Amazon product managers want to use their product manager job description to find out if they can start to use Alexa to collect health data.

The Amazon product managers want customers to start to use Alexa to do health related things like track customer prescriptions and also relay personal health information. Amazon has partnered with other companies to make Alexa’s health care features and they believe that they have been created in a way that will comply with U.S. federal health care data protocols. The Amazon product managers are discovering that customers are only using Alexa for simple things due to privacy concerns. Amazon is battling with Google and Apple to own the home voice command product market. Health care companies believe that voice could be a good way for customers to manage their health care data. Amazon has required that customers identify themselves to Alexa before they are permitted to access their health care data.

The future is arriving faster than any of us could have imagined. Amazon, Google, and Apple are all providing us with voice activated assistants to help us to accomplish common tasks more easily. The Amazon product managers want to expand their part of this market by adding health care functions to their Alexa product. We will have to watch carefully to see if they are able to overcome customer’s privacy concerns and turn Alexa into a useful health-care tool.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: How can consumers be convinced that Alexa will not share their health-care data with others?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

In this wonderful modern age in which we are all living, just about anything can be purchased online. However, there is a downside to this. You can’t touch online products. You can’t hold them in your hands and feel them. You can’t try them on. What’s missing from this whole online shopping experience is the ability to get close to the items that we are thinking about buying. Perhaps this is where the department store product managers could come in. Do they hold the secret to getting online products into real customer’s hands?