Amazon’s Alexa offers healthcare — Analysis

Amazon announced that its Echo devices can be connected to doctors via Teladoc, powered by Alexa AI, through the Telemedicine Company Teladoc. According to a Monday press release, the company will provide voice-activated medical assistance at any hour. 

Concerned users need only state “Alexa, I’d like to see a doctor” in the vicinity of their Echo, Echo Dot, or Echo Show device to be hooked up with a Teladoc call center. They can then share their symptoms, though the consultation won’t necessarily be free. Virtual “Visitors” – audio-only for now, though Teladoc has promised video visits are “Coming soon” – will cost $75 for the uninsured. Consultations are only available to customers who have an Alexa voice ID and do not require emergency services.

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Amazon has offered medical services to its employees since 2019 with its “Amazon Care” program, which connects patients with doctors and sends professionals to users’ homes if necessary, and the program has since expanded to cover non-employees, offering in-home visits as well as telehealth services.

The Alexa personal assistant has also deployed medical advice courtesy of WebMD since 2017, and Amazon even operates a prescription delivery service, offering its Prime members “Unlimitable” two-day delivery on all the pills they can pop. 

The Alexa option does not require you to make a call to the doctor, to log in to the computer, or to exert any physical effort to reach the doctor.

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Teladoc representatives have assured Amazon that they will not be allowed to store or access any content from Alexa consultations. The virtual assistant is infamous for its propensity to “Inadvertently” eavesdrop on clients when it’s supposed to be dormant, and using humans to hone its voice-recognition services without customers’ knowledge. These people were caught sharing particular recordings and some of the snippets were even requested by courts to be used as evidence.

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