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Disabled Microphone on Amazon Echo
Amazon Echo with its microphone disabled.  Jason Cipriani

Amazon Alexa Can Now Help Diagnose What Ails You

Feb 20, 2017

Amazon Alexa users with health issues can now have Alexa call Healthtap's Doctor AI to help figure out what's wrong and direct them to act accordingly.

Doctor AI initially supported Apple iOS and Android devices and its first voice application, Talk to Docs launched for those same devices in 2013. But support for Alexa, the smart voice-activated software that debuted with the Amazon Echo connected speaker, brings Dr. AI to home users who might not be adept at using screens.

"We'd been doing text and video before, then expanded into voice and that's exciting in healthcare because we serve many populations that are older, disabled, or frail," said Ron Gutman, founder and chief executive of Palo Alto, California-based digital health company which claims 107,000 doctors in its network. Records and data from those doctors make up Dr. AI's health care data trove.

"Voice is cool, but more important, it's fills a real need of people who have difficulty using their hands or whose eyesight is not that great," Gutman added.

Healthtap's staff worked to make voice interactions natural and conversational, Gutman said. Healthtap used Amazon's tool set to build an Alexa Skill—Amazon (amzn) lingo for an app. But the really sophisticated part lays in the backend where Healthtap's artificial intelligence technology parses data from all those medical records to consider what the user's symptoms most likely mean and convey that information in a human-like way.

Dr. AI will provide feedback on the user's stated problem and, if it deems necessary, connect the user with on of Healthtap's associated physicians.

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Healthtap also offers what it calls a Health Operating System (HOPES) cloud-based software to hospitals and other large healthcare organizations. It's goal is to make sense of myriad services used to track appointments, patient records, and lab results. In that arena it competes with companies like AthenaHealth (athn) and McKesson (mck).

For more on Healthtap, watch:

A basic version of the Dr. A.I. and Alexa is now available via the Amazon Echo or mobile devices. More advanced services that connect to the Health Operating System are also available for clinics, hospital systems, and insurance companies.

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